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August 14, 2006


Do not fall into the trap of thinking of the XBox as being a game platform. Wearing sheep's clothing does not make one a sheep.

The XBox is a high-bandwidth, low-latentcy, parallel processing monster -- a super-computer in a plastic shell. Opening the system to third-party developers allows this platform's power to be unleashed in other markets.

Here's an example. The architecture of game consoles (XBox, PS3) is ideal for digital electronic music synthesis. These consoles are (1) more powerful (2) less expensive, and (3) easier to use, than anything made by Yamaha, Roland, Korg, etc. They offer standard USB interfaces, so any modern controller keyboards can plug right into them -- no muss, no fuss. All they need is music synthesis software, and opening up these platforms makes the emergence of such software inevitable.

Another attractive feature of the game console as a platform is its low rate of software piracy, compared to the PC. Assume that game platform's rate of software piracy is one tenth that of the PC. In effect, that multiplies the installed base of the game console by a factor of ten, when a third party makes a platform-targeting decision. That means that a game console platform can be a profitable deployment target for non-game software at a much lower installed base than the PC. Actually getting paid is a strong attraction. (That's one reason why software developers in China tend to target cell phones instead of PC's.)

This development is likely to disrupt the electronic musical instrument industry's leaders. Yamaha has an acoustic instrument business to fall back on, but Roland and Korg are probably among the walking dead. The game consoles will eviscerate their markets for electronic music synthesis hardware.

Creative destruction, indeed.

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