What is Going on at Microsoft?

I am not really a fanboy of any company (other than Sega), but I do appreciate when a company does something well. For Microsoft, there have been a few bright spots over the last few years (even if they haven’t all been commercially profitable). Among those, I’d include the Zune as the best portable media player (note, I didn’t say “handheld entertainment device”, as the Zune and the ZuneHD were basically designed to do one thing, and do it extremely well); the Xbox 360 as quite possibly the best modern gaming console (though I do love my Wii, the Kinect kind of tipped the playing field slightly in Microsoft’s favor – or so I’ve been told; I don’t own a 360, yet); and Windows Phone 7 has, as much as Android and Apple fanboys would hate to admit, somewhat revolutionized the mobile touch interface.

Do I expect to see whole-hog clones of the WP7 Metro UI, the way we did with iOS? Absolutely not; but I do suspect that we’ll see subtle changes to touch interfaces over the next year or so as a result of the way the Windows Phone OS works.

All of that said, I can’t help but wonder what the Xbox team was thinking when it came up with the pricing structure for Microsoft Points or when they integrated Netflix into the Xbox ecosystem.

Xbox and Netflix

Since I don’t actually own an Xbox 360, I never really knew this; but @the_0ne_ne0 pointed out on Twitter this evening that Microsoft requires an Xbox Gold (premium) subscription in order to use Netflix on the console. So, in addition to the $8/month you pay to Netflix, you apparently also have to pay $5/month to Microsoft if you want to stream videos from Netflix to your Xbox.

This wouldn’t be such a bad deal if the Xbox was the only device that worked with Netflix. However, the Wii allows you to watch Netflix Instant for free (you still have to pay Netflix, but you don’t have to pay anything to Nintendo); and, from what I’ve heard, you can do the same thing on the Playstation 3 (which, unlike the Wii, does offer HD output).

Microsoft Points

This one’s a real headscratcher. For some reason, instead of Microsoft Points costing a flat rate per point, or even getting a small discount for purchasing larger quantities of points at a time, Microsoft actually charges you more for buying more points.

When you buy 400 points (the lowest amount of Microsoft Points available), you pay a rate of $0.012475 per point. However, when you buy 6000 points (the largest quantity available), you pay a rate of $0.0124983 per point. That might seem like a negligible difference (and, honestly, it is), but it really means that you would save $.14 per 6000 points if you were to buy 15 batches of 400 points instead of buying 6000 points at once.

Does Microsoft just assume that all of their customers suck at math, or do they figure that each additional click we’d have to make is worth $0.01? They’re probably right, but that’s still no reason that they should be ripping us off.

For that matter, why are they still dealing in points instead of real money, anyways? At least Wii points are easily translatable into currency (each Wii point equals $0.01, so 2000 points is $20). To make matters worse, at this time, the items available in the Zune Marketplace are segmented. Music, movies and TV shows can only be purchased with Microsoft Points, while Windows Phone 7 applications are can only be purchased with money.