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Enterprise Looks Inside Xbox For Revenue Streams

Microsoft had more than just the gamers talking this week at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco when the company released details of its next-generation Xbox video game system.

The revamped system is catching the eye of enterprise customers as the next-generation of the platform will fuse hardware, software and services to enhance gaming and entertainment experiences. Perhaps more intriguing than Xbox's custom soundtracks, however is an online marketplace where developers can sell custom content.

"New technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment as we know it," J. Allard, vice president and chief XNA architect at Microsoft, said a statement.

Allard said Microsoft's plans include more information exchanges between online players, creating an entertainment gateway that will interact with other media outlets via the Internet.

One area enterprise customers are viewing with great interest is what Microsoft calls "Micro Transactions." The small-ticket transactions let developers and the gaming community charge as little as they like for content they create and publish on the Xbox Marketplace. For example, a gamer could spend $.99 to buy a one-of-a-kind, fully tricked-out racing car. Multiply that by the number of Xbox users Microsoft boasts and the company says its partners will realize that the console is no longer just child's play.

Future generations of the game console will focus on more personalized experiences for players by fusing hardware, software and services, he said.

The company said the changes were fueled by consumer demand for experiences that are always connected and personalized.

"In the high-definition era, the platform is bigger than the processor," Allard said.

Although the immediate implications for ecommerce appear limited gaming, the continued evolution and merging of platforms is a trend likely to continue.

Other features include a "guide" that will enable players to read about other Xbox online members and to listen to the music of their choice while playing, allowing gamers to eliminate the need for game developers to support custom music in game software's, according to the company.

Microsoft said it has sold 19.9 million Xbox consoles worldwide since its 2001 launch. The company did no announce when the new version Xbox would ship.