It was with those words eight or so months ago that I got involved in the New Xbox Experience (NXE). Once I got shown the plans and mockups I was worried this would be New Coke. Not that I didn’t like them, just that I wasn’t sure a totally new UI and experience was a good idea given how well the console was going. I mean this was as big a change as Win 3.1 was to Win95, and it was going to be mandatory. Free, but mandatory. And what about existing themes? Gamerpics?
It didn’t take much convincing though when the actual work started, that the soul of the NXE if you will wasn’t change for changes sake, or to drive new console sales. This was basically an effort to hear and implement all the things the existing customers had said, and give them a prettier, faster, easier to use experience. All for free. And for the cases where we knew making this change would require storage we came up with a plan. We kept in mind existing investments people had made in gamerpics and themes to keep them around. Every step of the way we worked to strike the balance between the "hardcore" user and the more casual audience. We even took the unprecedented step of having a preview program we increased gradually to help us understand how people actually used the NXE beyond our own research.
It was an insane development cycle. And to this day I will never understand how we all managed to keep it under wraps for a surprise unveiling at E3. We’ve not exactly been known for keeping secret cool stuff, you know, secret. I think it stayed quiet because everyone knew we were really doing something pretty god damned fantastic and special and unprecedented in the console industry. But from the amazing work done by the Avatar team, to the test and dev folk, to the ops people and marketplace teams to our partner engagement, we managed to basically release a from-the-ground-up new operating system and UI and features.
In my nearly 15 years at Microsoft there’ve been several projects that I have an enormous amount of pride in being involved in. Windows 95, the security initiatives and MSRC work, the security underpinnings and foundations of Windows Vista, and the New Xbox Experience. I’m proud to be a part of it, and I’m just astounded at the team that made it happen, front end and back end. One day someone could write an amazing book on the development of the NXE and the LIVE changes it took to get it out the door. I think we’ve done work here like no one else at Microsoft is really doing right now. I’m truly humbled to be a member of a group with so many amazing smart people who always have the customer’s interest at heart.
2008 will stand out for me as probably the craziest and busiest year I’ve ever had at MS. But congrats to my fellow team mates, and I hope everyone enjoys what we’ve done. We’re all very tired though.
PS, we’re not done yet, you can bet there’s more to come including sadfjc;dakl