Could Xbox One work for SMBs?

Gartner analyst says gaming console may have appeal to the smallest of small businesses

Former Xbox head Don Mattrick shows off the Xbox One. Credit: Microsoft

Former Xbox head Don Mattrick shows off the Xbox One. Credit: Microsoft

A recent suggestion that the upcoming Microsoft Xbox One might have business uses appears unlikely to fly with most organisations, according to multiple industry analysts.

Earlier this month, a Microsoft MVP wrote on the Microsoft Small Business blog that the Xbox One should entice small businesses when the next-gen gaming console is released before Christmas. The post has since been removed by Microsoft.

“The Xbox One, priced at $499, is an affordable option for small business owners, as there are many features built into the console that could help it rival even the most modest of video conferencing and networking platforms,” wrote Consumer Camp director Marques Lyons.

Lyons pointed specifically at the device’s abilities to do 1080p HD videoconferencing through Skype and access data in the cloud using SkyDrive. He also noted the console’s support for Wi-Fi Direct, allowing for streaming of presentations to the TV, as well as gesture-control capabilities from the Kinect camera.

However, analysts contacted by Techworld Australia predicted only limited success for Xbox in the workplace.

Gartner analyst Geoff Johnson said Microsoft may have the best chance selling Xbox One to the “tiniest” of small businesses, composed of two to five employees.

In a spin on bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the consumerisation of IT, small businesses that work out of their homes may end up using the Xbox because it’s already in the house, he said. “You might as well use it for the business as well.”

“The trick is going to be to rip it away from the kids long enough.”

However, Ovum analyst Richard Absalom said he doesn’t see much appeal for businesses of any size to buy the Xbox One.

“The kind of teleconferencing facilities available through Xbox One / Kinect would also be available on a PC,” Absalom said. “Attaching the console to a big screen might offer something like a cheap presence room, but we don’t think this is a high priority for SMBs, so it’s hard to see what the business case for buying one would be.”

“I’m sure there will be lots of clever ways that people find to use Kinect, but just using an Xbox for teleconferencing doesn’t seem like the best use of money for SMBs,” he added.

The trick is going to be to rip it away from the kids long enough.

Gartner analyst Geoff Johnson

Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda agreed that there may not be a compelling reason for a business to buy the Xbox One over another unified communications device.

“The real question is, does the Xbox do anything that’s that compelling compared to other devices?” the analyst asked.

“You can get Skype on it, but you can get Skype on pretty much any device.”

Still, Gedda noted that the price of Xbox One—$499 in the US and $599 in Australia—could be attractive to budget-minded small businesses looking to buy a videoconferencing system, which typically run much higher.

“The fact that the Xbox has unified communications capabilities could make it like a glorified videoconferencing or messaging system, and that is very applicable to businesses,” he said.

All three analysts admitted that the motion-sensing Kinect technology could bring something unique to the system, assuming businesses can find a use for it.

Ovum sees “niche opportunities for using Kinect, for example in operating theatres in hospitals where a surgeon can use gestures to navigate through scans, patient records, etc., instead of needing to leave the theatre, find what they’re looking for, and scrub up again,” said Absalom.

Kinect could have uses for fields of science and research, said Gedda. “If Xbox can commoditise that, it might be a good opportunity.”

“The area that’s going to drag it through is the gesture control, voice navigation and related presentation videoconferencing stuff,” said Johnson. However, he said it’s “hard to imagine” many business apps being developed for the console.

The analysts noted that the Xbox’s historical focus on video gaming could turn off some businesses, analysts said.

Read more: Is Skype finally ready for call centres?

When Johnson first heard Microsoft’s comments about using Xbox in the workplace, the analyst laughed, he said. Johnson explained that he used to joke with clients, “My favourite organisation runs on Xbox.”

There may also be a fear the Xbox will be more of a distraction than a business tool, said Gedda. “If you put this gaming device in someone’s hands, they will use it for non-work purposes as well as work purposes.”

Then again, that might not be a problem for every organisation, he said. “Businesses look at gamification and downtime for employees pretty seriously as well.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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Tags consumerisation of ITsmall businessunified communicationsskypesmbworkplacecloud storagevideoconferencingSkyDriveWi-Fi DirectKinectconsumerizationBring Your Own Device (BYOD)Microsoft Xbox One

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