Great little documentary on the history of the original Xbox by the channel Video Game Docs; it's a small channel but deserves more subs so if you're interested in learning more about the history of classic consoles, give them a look. Below I'll make some observations of my own from various parts of the video, which might add something to the conversation.
-Interesting that Microsoft's first attempt to get into console gaming was not via a console directly, but to provide middleware and API development tools & software for established competitors. Which they did for Sega's Dreamcast, and tried to do for Sony's PS2 (and certainly would've tried for Gamecube if things went well with PS2). I think this foreshadows their corporate philosophy as a whole and is a great early glimpse of the strategy they're now pursuing with Azure cloud partnerships with companies like, again, Sega, as well as Sony (who have a mutual agreement to potentially use Azure in the future), Valve, and likely some time in the future, Nintendo. Their push for GamePass on many devices aside from just Xbox also show a more aggressive push for this strategy.
-Rick Thompson was the Phil Spencer of his time in ways; already the pitch for Xbox was as something "beyond just gaming", wanting to push integration of television and internet into the package as well. This is how he sold the concept of a Microsoft gaming console to top executives including none other than Bill Gates himself. Interesting parallels with Phil Spencer's pitch to Satya Nadella to reinvest big into gaming; Xbox itself isn't the only part (or IMO even the main part) of their strategy, it's more about what gaming can do for the company as a whole particularly its Azure cloud. How others feel about that is their own choice.
-The original Xbox during development went by the title Project Midway, based on the WWII battle of US vs. Japan. Like said in the video, interesting choice isn't it? IMO it's interesting since when you look at the strategy today, if that was a clear reference to Sony, and yet the push now with Xbox is more so about GamePass and Azure Cloud, things that aren't necessarily dependent on a gaming console...it could be argued that "Japan" (Sony) have certainly won the Midway battle this time...
...although IMO it's a weird way to name your gaming project, things were just that different then I suppose
-Even as early as the original Xbox, before it even launched no less, Microsoft were in the spirit of making acquisitions. They purchased WebTV outright, to help with development of the Xbox. I guess it makes a bit of sense here; prior to the original Xbox I can't think of any hardware Microsoft worked on outside of the MSX, and the hardware in that case was handled by other companies (including a version by Sony), while MS just handled the establishment of certain standard protocols, functions and compatibilities IIRC (and may've done this with other companies, primarily microcomputer builders).
-Ed Fries vouched for including a HDD in the Xbox because it was key for graphics quality. And...he was right. Even though HDDs were slow compared to what we have today, DVDs were even slower, and getting data from storage to RAM to keep the GPU fed was always going to be important, no matter how beefy the GPU on its own was.
Kind of goes to show how wrong the people (hell, I think even I was guilty of doing this, in hindsight :S) who shot down the SSDs in PS5 and Xbox Series for aiding in boosting graphics performance were. It was never about the SSDs themselves doing any graphics processing calculations, but rather they would significantly boost the ability to get data into memory as quickly as possible and be fast enough to where RAM wouldn't need to reserve a large portion as a cache for just-in-case actions of the player.
We can argue as to which system has the advantage when it comes to SSD I/O, but that's it's own discussion in some other place IMO.
I recommend giving it a watch, even if you've seen the Power On documentary series from Microsoft themselves; it's a much more condensed rundown of a lot of the things mentioned in that series, which could be beneficial for people short on time or just want the really important bits. And like mentioned before, the channel has some solid documentaries on other systems, such as the Dreamcast, PlayStation, Saturn, and Gamecube.
Oh yeah, while at it give Creative Cat Productions a look as well; there's a PC-Engine/TurboGraphx video from them I've been meaning to make a thread on for a while, and I would wholeheartedly recommend both of the PCE/TG16 videos on that channel (among others )
What other types of consoles would you guys like to see in-depth documentaries on? Or are there others you've seen which you feel deserve more eyeballs to view them? Share away!