Robbie Bach in frank interview

Robbie Bach is the president of the Entertainment & Devices Group at Microsoft and recently he had what turned out to be a very frank and interesting interview with a small group of reporters in San Francisco.

He said that with Zune the investment was in software and services, it wasn’t just a device and he gave the example of Zune social, which to me seems to be a trojan horse for all sorts of things. This comes out when he says “But the entire Zune effort is also part of a broader effort in connected entertainment.” He also made the point that Zune is a multipurpose entertainment player so it would not surprise me to see a Zune phone very soon. When it comes to games they are being very careful not to repeat the failings of the PSP. But he admits that when it comes to getting emotional response to a brand they fall behind Apple, Sony and Nintendo. Something that is very evident when you read fanboy rantings on the internet.

About Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death (RRoD) failures he was surprisingly open, presumably in the belief that they now have it sorted. “It’s one of those things that nobody is proud of. On the other hand, we are in a complex technology space. You learn from it. You do the right things to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The best thing you can do is tell your customers you want them to keep enjoying the product and here is what we will do on replacing it for free.”

Most interestingly he said that Microsoft did not plan to go first in the current console generation. They planned to launch about the same time as Playstation PS3, but Sony had problems and slipped from their launch date. But he is happy with the result “It has given us a leg up in a number of places that are super important. It has given us a leg up with game developers. It has given us a leg up from an economics perspective. It helped us expand Xbox Live quickly.” So it looks like they are planning to go first with the next generation “At a strategy level, if you asked if we wanted to be first again, I would say yes.”

He admits that Japan is not good “Mathematically, our share is up a lot in Japan but it’s still small. We are still in single-digit share.” But is optimistic for their future there “We’re very persistent. When I was in the Office business, Ishitaro was the No. 1 word processor in Japan. Now the No. 1 word processor in Japan is Microsoft Word. That took seven years.” Doing the Japan marketing task for Xbox will certainly be an interesting job for someone.

There is loads more and it is fascinating stuff. Here is the full interview. Part 1. Part 2. Part3.