Microsoft will market the Xbox more as an entertainment brand this year.
In a note outlining Microsoft's vision for the console, corporate communications vice president Frank Shaw said the Xbox equals entertainment.
"The vision for Xbox is straightforward: All of the entertainment you want," he said. "With the people you care about. Made easy. That is why you've seen us invest in partnerships with ESPN, Netflix and Hulu. That is why we've baked social directly into the experience with Xbox Live – connecting gamers, friends and families across the globe. That is why you'll see Xbox marketed more as an entertainment brand this year. And that is why we're investing so much in Natural User Interface technologies (speech, touch, gestures) to make the entertainment experience that much easier - and more fun. With Kinect, we've made NUI real for millions of people, and we've only begun to scratch the surface of what's possible."
Some commentators have speculated that Shaw's note indicates that Microsoft may unveil its "Orapa" project for Xbox at E3 2011 next week.
Project Orapa is a codename for Microsoft's combination of Xbox Live and Mediaroom IPTV. If an Xbox app is planned, it could allow Xbox owners to control their TV settings, social networking, music and video with Kinect-fuelled gestures.
Microsoft said that despite its intention to focus on Xbox as an entertainment hub, it hasn't left core gamers behind.
"For the last 10 years at Microsoft, we've been turning up the heat on how we think about Xbox, and next week at E3 you will get a chance to see how far we've come," Shaw continued.
"Let's look at the numbers and then take a look at what they mean and what the future holds. Just for starters, we've sold more than 53 million Xbox 360 consoles, and Xbox has been the top-selling console in the last year. There are more than 30 million Xbox Live members. And more than 10 million Kinects have sold to date.
"Those are pretty big numbers for a device that, until recently, had primarily been purchased by hardcore gamers. But something interesting has happened in the last few years. While people are still playing a ton of video games, 40 per cent of all Xbox activity now is non-game. Put another way, we're seeing an average of 30 hours of video consumption per month per Xbox, a number that is growing fast. And people are expecting more – more options, more games, more videos, more entertainment. "Put simply, Xbox = entertainment and is core to our entertainment strategy. Around the world, the Xbox connects more people to online content and communities through the largest screen in the house than any other device.
"And as the console has evolved, it's stayed true to its core while adding more and more experiences. Today, there is no better gaming experience in the world. Immersive games, sports games, games where you are the controller, games where you talk to your friends, games where you talk to the console, games that get you into shape, that make you laugh, that let you take a picture and share it with friends. Games that extend to your Windows 7 PC and your Windows Phone 7...and, of course, other devices to come..."
Other devices to come, eh?