Here's a fun question to chew on for the weekend. If Microsoft were to launch a handheld device, when would they attempt to do so, and what preconditions would need to be satisfied first?
To be clear: Microsoft has repeatedly noted that they've got no interest in launching a handheld gaming device at this time and that they're wholly focused on the Xbox 360. However, if they were to establish a solid position for the Xbox 360, might they turn their attention to growing the empire?
Is the handheld market large and attractive enough? Probably. Are trends moving in the right direction and do people desire mobile entertainment? Yes. It seems that the only reason it�s not a Microsoft priority is that they�re preoccupied with not losing another $4 billion on the Xbox 360.
Let�s therefore assume that companies (even Microsoft) are constrained in the number of products that they can build, launch and support at once. It follows that a company with such constraints will seek to stagger the release of their stationary and handheld consoles so that the development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution phases of the work don�t bunch up and create bottlenecks.
Here�s a brief history of handheld releases. The first number is the approximate date of the system�s release. The number after the plus sign is the number of months after the release of the company�s previous major console:
Nintendo Game Boy (1989.04, NES + 42 months)
Nintendo Game Boy Color (1998.11, N64 + 22 months)
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2001.06, N64 + 54 months)
Nintendo DS (2004.11, GameCube + 34 months)
Sega Game Gear (1990.10, Genesis + 24 months)
Sony PSP (2005.03, PS2 + 54 months)
Assuming this pattern holds, one might begin to look for an Xbox handheld around 2005.11 +22 to +54 months, which would put it between fall 2007 and spring 2010.
What do you think?
[Xbox 360 Portable mockup by PlayBomb.com.]