Is Microsoft planning a standalone Blu-ray player to go with the Xbox 360? It would appear that way from a quote Gizmodo dug out from its interview with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.
Asked whether Microsoft will add a Blu-ray player to the Xbox 360, Ballmer said “Well I don’t know if we need to put Blu-ray in there—you’ll be able to get Blu-ray drives as accessories.”
On follow-up with Microsoft PR, Gizmodo got the same line that we’ve already heard from Microsoft, that its current plan is to support streaming video and on-demand movies from the Zune Marketplace. “As far as our future plans are concerned, we’re not ready to comment,” the handlers said.
A couple things to consider: First, if you watch the interview, Ballmer’s remarks aren’t as clear as they appear in quotes. It seems as if he’s throwing out the Blu-ray comment off-hand, not announcing a new product, and Ballmer is pretty guarded in the rest of the interview. Second, Ballmer has slipped up before. In June, he spoke of a new Xbox 360 model in 2010, leading to speculation that the Project Natal motion sensor would launch with a redesigned Xbox 360, and forcing a flurry of carefully-worded denials from Microsoft that any new console was on the way.
I would guess that Ballmer was merely talking about owning any old Blu-ray player on the side, but the wording of Microsoft PR is intriguing, because it’s not a firm denial. Maybe the company’s keeping its options open.
That said, I don’t think the Xbox 360 needs a Blu-ray player, especially an external one. Sure, it could allow you to launch movies from the console dashboard and sign into Xbox Live while watching a film, but those benefits seem negligible to me. Besides, Microsoft already bet on HD-DVD with an external player (pictured above), and it failed. If the Xbox 360 is supposed to live until 2015, as executives assert, Microsoft should stick with online video instead of saddling consumers with another technology that will ultimately be overshadowed.