When Microsoft announced its next generation gaming console in May, it billed the device as the one-box solution for all your entertainment needs. Now, the Bellevue, Wash.-based Windows maker has another sales pitch aimed at small business: Xbox One isn't just for playing Halo and Hulu -- wink, nudge. It's also a serious tool for business.
This claim, however, feels a little far-fetched.
Positioning the console's capabilities as an array of tenuous presentation solutions, Microsoft claims "it's entirely justifiable to make the Xbox One a business expense." Seriously? Here, I've outlined some of the device's capabilities and some simple reasons why I don't think they're up to snuff for business users.
Skype: Microsoft's 2011 purchase of Skype let the company bake video conferencing into Xbox One, allowing multi-person chatting, with a wide-angle 1080p lens for collaborative meetings and presentations.
It sounds handy, and will probably be seamless to use, but the console's $500 price tag is a lot more than the free Google Hangout service that many small businesses already use.
SkyDrive: By stitching SkyDrive, a cloud storage service and app, into Xbox One, Microsoft gives the device true business-friendly potential. But in light of the PRISM scandal, some users are looking for more secure solutions, such as office-hosted cloud spaces. I'd much rather serve up a presentation from a physical flash drive, especially if I don't want it leaking out into the world.
Wi-Fi Direct: A protocol that allows devices to connect to each other via secure wireless networking, Wi-Fi Direct has some potential. But Microsoft recommends using it with a SmartGlass-enabled device -- like a Windows phone or tablet -- to send PowerPoint presentations to your conference room television via your new Xbox One.
Translation: toss your perfectly fine, existing solution and buy an Xbox One and a Surface tablet. Sounds counterintuitive to me.
Internet Explorer: The new console will come with Internet Explorer, so Microsoft reasons, "If you host clients at your home, use the power of IE and the size of your TV to showcase your new redesigned website."
Technologically, this will work, but it will be little help in making Xbox One a taxable business deduction. While property like cars can be split between business and personal expenses, owners can only deduct the percentage used for work. So, if you're going to deduct your Xbox, plan on keeping a mileage log for your Need for Speed Rivals games.
Office Web Apps: Internet Explorer gives users access to Microsoft Office's Web Apps. Pair it with Kinect's movement-based controls, and "now you're free of clickers and light pens to use your hands to for more expressive gestures," Microsoft says.
Unless, of course, you have a habit of talking with your hands. Because then you'll be flailing around like a Fruit Ninja player trying to get back to your slides. And giving users access to Microsoft Office's Web Apps begs the question of why there aren't real Office for Xbox apps, if this is truly a small-business presentation tool.
Future Applications: Ah, the promise of promise. "The app story of Xbox One has yet to be written," says the pitch, "therefore it is entirely possible to find apps down the road that could be of benefit for you and your business." Skype when you get there, Microsoft. I'm betting the cost will have dropped by then, too.