@Nancy- Point well taken and food for thought. Here's a few comments and "thought exercises" for you:
You mention Bill Gates' philanthropy...where did his money come from? Although his upbringing was pretty fortunate, he wasn't born with billion$. Earlier Xbox platforms, games, and subscriptions helped contribute to it.
$100 million is expected box office on a reasonably successful movie. We have the individual choice to see a movie or donate the money to charity instead...perhaps you've made that very choice (truly good if you have), but if you've gone to the theter it seems to conflict with your "incomprehensible" comment.
I'm too lazy to research Xbox sales volumes. Assuming sales volume of 20 million units (probably a low estimate), that's $5 per unit for total development costs. Not a huge number in that context. $100 million just for DVT and testing alone might be a good investment given the warranty costs and bad publicity that earlier generation Xbox failures caused Microsoft.
My son's summer intern project involved interfacing a Kinect (gesture input camera for Xbox) with a Roomba vacuum base. The project is a rescue robot that will autonomously go into disaster scenes and map out the wreckage and locate possible survivors. Entertainment devices and household appliances can lead to social benefits not envisioned by the developers.
@cadman, I am certain that the new XBOX does indeed provide all of those functions, which are all personal entertainment related, with none of them being vital or even that important. So while I am not deriding the product, it is still a toy. Remember that old ditty from quite a few years back? " The primary difference between men and boys is most easily seen in the price of their toys"? A whole lot of things fit into the toy catagory, and a lot of manufacturers have figured that out. So toys represent a larger portion of our expenditures, and may even be a more recession resistant market sector.
This might be out there, but I am not sure that they even design for kids anymore. IMO they are designing for us 30-40 yr olds who grew up gaming and still do and can afford to buy something worthwhile. We rent netflix, hulu, all that, so they build that in, we have HD tvs, we buy rokus, apple tv, stream everything...it's for us that do that. I doubt they build it with kids in mind so much anymore. Just my opinion. It's something the entire family can enjoy, not just a toy for kids.
William K, I don't classify these new systems as toys. Sure back in the day PS1 N64, those were toys. These new consoles are far beyond "toys". They are sophisticated media centers for most households. Not toys anymore!
It does provide more than games for sure. Selling XBOX live subscriptions alone will make a lot of money, and this thing is built around that. You're supposed to use Netflix thru it and everything else, so it turns any tv into a smart tv really. That is a selling point as well I think. No need for an add-on tv box, this will do the same.
While this is an expensive toy it is also likely that they will make money on it one way or another. ms is always making certain that they will make money on their products, even the ones full of bugs. And it is undoubtedly an incredibly powerful system optimized for some gaming functions. Not being a gamer I am not cerain just what matters the most, but I am certain that the video is impressive by any standard, and quite likely the communications speeds as well. And like a lot of their products, we will undoubtedly learn that there are some hidden features and functions that will be revealed at a later time.
Thanks for showing us what is inside, otherwise it would have been quite a while before I got to open up a nonfunctional unit.
Nancy: It looks like a couple of the integrated circuits are on the motherboard might be full-custom designs, as well as one on the PCB in the optical drive. Development costs for designs in leading-edge IC processes are unbelievably expensive. Just a full mask set in 28nm is over a million dollars; 16nm (just now becoming available for production) is about twice that. If you do a few full mask spins on the design (which would be typical for such a product develoment) that adds up quick. The design tools are also expensive: each of the half-dozen or so different tools required for a design are in the neighborhood of a quarter-million dollar per seat. Throw in the salaries and overhead of a design team of a 100 or more architects, logic designers, physical designers, verification team, test development and yeah, I can see a development cost of many tens of millions of dollars for just the integrated circuits alone. Then you have the whole rest of the box, the controllers, the power supply, the Kinect, and the software to develop. Then you build prototypes for evaluation by the teams devloping the games and ... well, you get the picture.
It's not just the Xbox (or the PS4, which I'm sure had a similar development cost) that is freakin' expensive to develop: the network routers that the bits in this post will pass through have a similar development cost structure. So do Intel's and AMD's CPU development programs. Those kinds of cost have to be amortized over a lot of product sales to be worthwhile. That's one reason why there are not a lot of companies who can compete in each of those markets; for gaming consoles there used to be close to a dozen, now there's just three major players (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo).
As for being "just a toy": yeah, from one perspective you're correct. But that could be said of a lot of technology: aren't most iPads used for entertainment as well (Angry Birds, anyone)? How about my Kindle: what's wrong with good, old-fashioned, dead-tree books? Do I really need a smart cell phone so I can update facebook and look up stuff on Wikipedia? GPS? A paper map's batteries never go dead.
Plus the develoment of products like the Xbox push vendors to do a better job: the economies of scale for the semi-conductor manufacturers make everyones integrated circuits more affordable. The DA vendors are pushed to improved their tools and fix bugs that benefit all other users of thier products. Those are things we all benefit from (although indirectly, for most people).
Full disclosure: I work in the ASIC development business (although not for Microsoft).
Nancy, I understand your basic point - Why are people willing to spend so much money on entertainment? Dunno. Even though I used to be a serious PC Gamer.
If it makes it more palatable, for the Xbox, there are side benefits. The Kinect is finding uses in other areas, such as operating rooms as one example. I'd say the research that goes into handheld controllers has applications in other areas as well.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.