Microsoft has denied rumours that it may be looking to sell off its Xbox division, with Phil Spencer claiming the company remains 'extremely committed' despite rumblings of discontent among shareholders.
The launch of Microsoft's Xbox console in 2001 was a considerable departure from the company's core competency of software provision. Although Microsoft had dabbled in hardware before, it had typically limited itself to supporting products for its Windows operating system - mice, keyboards, and the occasional joystick. The Xbox, by contrast, was a fully-fledged games console featuring integrated network connectivity and a custom operating system incompatible with software written for its Windows OS.
The departure proved successful: Microsoft sold tens of millions of Xbox units, and its follow-up the Xbox 360 has sold more than 80 million units to date. Its latest revision of the hardware, the Xbox One, however, is having something of a shaky start. Launching alongside Sony's PlayStation 4 - rather than the year-long head-start enjoyed by its predecessor - the Xbox One sells for a higher price thanks to a bundled Kinect camera system and features lower-performance graphics hardware, although Microsoft has stated that its soon-to-launch cloud computing system will let developers tap into additional power in future titles.
The result: figures suggest that Sony is outselling Microsoft by as much as 2:1 in this latest console generation, and that has shareholders antsy. So much so, in fact, that it has been reported that two major shareholders
are attempting to convince new chief executive Satya Nadella to sell off the Xbox brand to the highest bidder and concentrate more on the company's traditional software roots.
For those who have bought an Xbox One, though, the news that such a move seems unlikely will come as a relief. 'Xbox is a really critical brand for us as a company as Microsoft; when you think about consumers, what they love about our company, Xbox is one of the most beloved brands that the company has,
reports Microsoft's Phil Spencer as stating during a gaming panel at SXSW. 'It's something that resonates well inside the walls when you're talking to the teams, or when I stand in front of Xbox fans, I want to make sure that they understand we are extremely committed to this product.
Microsoft recently appointed Stephen Elop, former head of Finnish mobile specialist Nokia, as the head of its Xbox division.