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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Walk Through The Xbox 360 Evaluation Lab

A Walk Through The Xbox 360 Evaluation Lab

"Leslie Leland was kind enough to walk me through the product evaluation and reliability labs for the Xbox 360 at Microsoft’s Mountain View, Calif., campus earlier this month. She's one of the hardware engineers who makes sure that the box will work when it arrives under Christmas trees this fall. On the tour, I got to see some working prototypes, as well as many with their guts torn out. Behind doors with coded keypads, Microsoft is literally baking some of these machines to see if they can live up to tough quality standards before they begin shipping this fall. Here and there, engineers say that they’re the first to begin playing next-generation games.

If you don’t know the history of the Xbox, Mountain View is worth explaining. Microsoft acquired its position in the heart of Silicon Valley when it bought WebTV Networks for $425 million in 1997. That was a very expensive boondoggle. But there were a cluster of video game veterans from 3DO within WebTV. Folks like Tim Bucher, Dave Riola, and Nick Baker. They stayed on and tried to pitch Redmond on a WebTV-like video game console. They lost out to the team from Redmond that proposed the Xbox, and had to content themselves in 2001 with designing UltimateTV, a digital video recorder that didn’t resonate that well with consumers. The Xbox went on to sell more than 20 million units, and much of the WebTV team was absorbed into the Xbox division. Some departed, but the remaining team at Mountain View soldiered on, and in many ways, WebTV has gotten its revenge by playing a major role with Xbox 360. “You could say we came in as the relief pitchers,” said Leland. " [more]

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