First, Microsoft axed its video-producing Xbox Entertainment Studios and spun off Nokia’s MixRadio streaming radio service as part of its devastating round of layoffs, which will see 18,000 jobs cut over the next year. Then, during Tuesday night’s portentous quarterly earnings call with analysts and investors, CEO Satya Nadella dropped this little bomb:
“With our decision to specifically focus on gaming, we expect to close Xbox entertainment studios and streamline our investments in music and video. We will invest in our core console gaming in Xbox live with a view towards the broader PC and mobile opportunity.”
The ominous questions started immediately. Is Microsoft going to put its Xbox Video and Xbox Music services out to pasture, too?
In a word: Nope. Joe Belfiore, who runs product design and definition for the Windows ecosystem, took to Twitter to quickly douse the flames of inquisition.
Don’t worry, no plan to drop Xbox Music/Video– my team builds these key scenarios for tablets, phones, PCs! And Xbox team does on console.— joebelfiore (@joebelfiore) July 23, 2014
So there you have it: Xbox Music and Xbox Video aren’t going anywhere. That’s no surprise, to be frank. While the shuttering of auxiliary media services like Xbox Entertainment and MixRadio are to be expected given Microsoft’s newly crystallized focus on productivity, robust, native music and movie stores are essentially table stakes for operating systems these days—witness Google Play, and Apple’s App Store and iTunes.
What’s more, with Microsoft now providing Windows licenses for free to phone makers and hardware partners creating tiny tablets, the company is going to be looking for ways to monetize the existing services baked into Windows. Xbox Music and Xbox Video—which, despite their names, are native applications on Windows devices—play into that. MixRadio’s service was available for free to Windows Phone owners (and, in fact, largely overlaps the function of the Xbox Music Pass subscriptions), while Xbox Entertainment Studios was all about creating big-budget original videos for Xbox owners, so they didn’t play into Microsoft’s bottom line in such a direct fashion.