Microsoft Partner Calls Xbox An 'Entirely Justifiable' Business Expense

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Microsoft last year shuttered its once popular Small Business Server product, but one of its Most Valuable Professional (MVP) partners says the Xbox One is a viable small business videoconferencing and networking platform.

When the $499 Xbox One hits store shelves in November, its built-in Skype and 1080p Kinect video camera will be as powerful as a PC with a microphone and a Webcam for doing group meetings, Marques Lyons, a Gardena, Calif.-based Microsoft Xbox MVP, said in a July 9 post to Microsoft's Support For Small Business blog.

Lyons described the Xbox One as an "affordable option for small business owners" and said it has features that "could help it rival even the most modest of video conferencing and networking platforms."

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Lyons' blog post was no longer accessible on the Microsoft blog as of Monday morning Pacific time, but is still visible through Google cache.

Microsoft couldn't be reached for comment on whether the post disappeared due to a technical glitch or some other reason.

While Lyons isn't a Microsoft employee, the fact that Microsoft gave him a forum to float his idea is telling. Some partners see it as an example of Microsoft's dwindling focus on products geared toward SMBs.

Microsoft, which is now pitching Windows Server 2012 Essentials to SMBs, is giving partners less to work with than they've had in the past, Jeff Middleton, a Microsoft MVP based in Metairie, La., told CRN.

"As Microsoft withdraws purposeful products and channel programs specifically designed for small business values, there's a massive segment of SMB that is resigned to repurposing products intended for enterprise, and products for consumers like Xbox," Middleton said.

Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Fresno, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, says Lyons' idea is creative, but not necessarily applicable to the needs of small businesses.

"I suppose that a very small SOHO business might be able to make this work. But, like many things in technology, and life, just because you can doesn't always mean you should," Duffy said.

Xbox 360 and Xbox One both come with Internet Explorer, which means small businesses can store their data on Microsoft's SkyDrive storage service and use Office Web Apps to do work and give presentations, according to Lyons.

In another sign of Microsoft blurring the lines between the Xbox and business, the company is giving away a free year of Xbox Live Gold, which is priced at $59, to customers that buy a $99.99 annual subscription to Office 365 Home Premium.

In his blog post, Lyons said future apps for Xbox One could make the console even more useful for businesses. But, Middleton believes Microsoft should have come up with a better way of explaining the idea of a gaming console serving small businesses' needs.

"I can't fault an MVP for creative thinking about a product he loves, but I can fault Microsoft for looking foolish in creating conditions where this idea is even promoted as discussion in the industry. Couldn't Microsoft tune a more robust solution on the same logic?" Middleton said.


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