We're not sure Bill Gates really needs much of an introduction. You know of him, we know of him - hell our pet cat probably even knows of him. Microsoft's founder, his official job title is Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation, but we probably more commonly refer to him as 'Microsoft big cheese'. We recently caught up with Microsoft big cheese Bill Gates then to talk about Xbox, the recently launched Xbox 360, Microsoft's position in the console market and the future of gaming.
Microsoft made a big investment in the original Xbox that didn't make money. What are the expectations in this generation, both from a mind share and content standpoint, and also from the position of shareholders needing to see a profitable entertainment business?
Bill Gates: Whenever you enter a new business, you expect to make a significant initial investment - Xbox has always been a long-term strategy for us. And in just four years, Microsoft has become the world's second-biggest player in the console industry. At the same time, we've established a core audience that is incredibly enthusiastic about the cutting-edge technology and amazing games that will make up the Xbox 360 experience. So we're confident that we already have the foundation for an extremely strong growth business for Microsoft.
Forbes recently revealed that Xbox cost Microsoft around $4billion. Was this the 'worst-case scenario' in all the possible business outcomes for getting into the console market? How fiscally important is the Xbox business to Microsoft's bottom line?
Bill Gates:: We never enter a new business unless it has a good chance of becoming a commercial success for us - and in the technology industry that can take time. So we've always viewed Xbox as an investment for the long term. And in the space of four years, we've proven our value to the industry and consumers in more than just sales. I have no doubt this investment in innovation will pay off for us.
If PS3 wins the next round in terms of market share, will there be a third Xbox console?
Bill Gates: I can't emphasise this enough - we're in this for the long term, and we're confident that our constantly advancing technology will win millions more customers around the world. Right now, we're driving one of the biggest console launches in gaming history. We're delivering Xbox 360 to millions of people around the world in the first ever truly global console launch. Imagine the possibilities when kids from Japan are challenging kids from New York to a race of PGR3, or a PDZ team from Osaka challenges a team from San Francisco. This really is the dawn of a new era of advanced gaming.
You were famously quoted in Time magazine, saying Halo 3 would be released to match the PS3 launch date, but others at Microsoft and Bungie have subsequently backed away from that. Can you clarify that statement?
Bill Gates: Well, the last thing I want to do is steal Halo 3's thunder [smiles].
With the refocus on winning the Xbox battle in Japan, Microsoft is taking on Sony on its own turf. What are the chances of Microsoft taking on Sony in other areas, like consumer electronics? And what's the key to turning the tide in Japan?
Bill Gates: We're the world's second-biggest console maker right now, but we know that we can never be number one without winning the hearts of Japanese gamers. That's why we enlisted the talents of Hers in Osaka and Astro in San Francisco to develop a console that has truly global appeal. It's why we secured the best talents in Japanese game development - including Okamoto-san, Itagaki-san, Sakaguchi-san, and Mizuguchi-san - to create unique content for Xbox 360.