Xbox Creator Bails

In another sign of impending doom for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, Seamus Blackley, who cocreated the unit and its marketing strategy, has suddenly left the company to pursue other projects. Many people considered Blackley the heart of soul of the Xbox; he was a prominent public figure who boosted his technological baby at almost every Microsoft event during the past 2 years. But a recent string of bad news for the console, punctuated by much lower-than-expected sales, exposed a major flaw in the Xbox strategy. Blackley originated and pushed that strategy, of course.

"\[Blackley\] has left Microsoft to pursue other opportunities," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We value his contributions."

Blackley's exit comes just 1 day after Microsoft announced that it will probably miss its yearly Xbox sales target by almost 40 percent. According to company insiders, debate centered on whether the Xbox should be an all-in-one home-media center that offers DVD movie playback, digital video recording (DVR) functionality, a home gateway, Internet-connection sharing, and other features out of the box, in addition to game playing. But Blackley felt that the Xbox had to be a "pure" gaming system, and he was able to push his vision through. Since the holiday season ended, however, Microsoft has started working on the next Xbox, which will probably resemble an all-in-one unit more than it does the current games-only console. Microsoft moved the UltimateTV hardware team, which previously worked on interactive TV and DVR software, into the Xbox division in January.

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