Boyd Multerer — the genius Microsoft engineer who founded Xbox Live, helped build the Xbox 360, and led the development of the three-operating-systems-in-one Xbox One platform — announced on Twitter today that he's left Microsoft to pursue new opportunities. Multerer has been on leave since the Xbox One launched; he and his wife Keri launched the interactive erotica site Silkwords back in February, and now he says he's focusing on other new startup ideas.
Goodbye Microsoft. It was a good run. Xbox was Great! Time to do something new.— Boyd Multerer (@BoydMulterer) December 29, 2014
But more importantly, Multerer's departure means that almost every single person on the Xbox One team we profiled last November when that console launched has now either left the company or been reassigned under new Xbox chief Phil Spencer. Microsoft's original vision of the Xbox One as a general-purpose living room platform has been drastically scaled back — Spencer is a games guy. That focus on games is paying off, as the Xbox One just outsold the PS4 for the first time in November. But all the people who were trying to build something bigger? Well, they're gone. Just go down the list of the people in this feature video we made — a video focused on Xbox TV:
- Marc Whitten, former Xbox VP, is now the Chief Product Officer at Sonos. Whitten was the biggest champion of the Xbox One as a TV platform; he and I argued about the TV integration many, many times.
- Ben Smith, the Xbox TV program manager, is also at Sonos now.
- Multerer, who was in charge of the platform that enabled the Xbox One to both play games and run Windows apps, has now left.
- Kareem Choudhry, who was in charge of Kinect development, is now director of development for all of Xbox. Kinect is how the Xbox One controls cable boxes over IR, but it's no longer bundled with the console and few games support it. And Phil Spencer seems pretty happy the Kinect is dead.
The only person we profiled who has the same role is Jeff Henshaw, who remains Xbox group program manager. That's a big turnover — and an even bigger change of vision for Microsoft's next-generation console after former Xbox chief Don Mattrick left to become CEO of Zynga.
IR blasters remain a terrible idea
The Xbox One was supposed to be the first step towards a living room revolution — it was supposed to run Windows apps, every console was supposed to be a dev unit, and deep interactive TV integration was the next big step — but there's been virtually no progress on any of those fronts since the console's bumpy launch, and the people who championed that vision are now mostly gone. The renewed focus on gaming has led to short-term sales success, but consoles last a decade, and the long-term vision is no longer clear. Microsoft says the Xbox One will run the upcoming Windows 10 operating system, which is supposed to unify the company's various products, but there have been precious few details about that plan so far. We'll have to wait to find out more.
One thing is clear, however: if your product depends on a damn IR blaster to work, it is definitely doomed to fail.