The XBox, rather than a money pit, has been an "experiment", merely the first stage in a Microsoft plan to roll out their own PC.
Rolling out Microsoft branded PCs is a good idea because, um... "perhaps making a Microsoft computer that adheres to the often-ignored Microsoft reference designs might reinvigorate the once-lively PC buzz." I know I'll be excited by a machine that FINALLY adheres to the Microsoft reference designs.
This is also a good move because Microsoft has been successful at playing follow-the leader in the past: "Microsoft has been very successful with this copycat strategy." So copying Apple's ill-fated Mac clone move is a good idea? When you're competing against other hardware vendors, there's a built in conflict of interest. If Microsoft wants to advance the Linux cause, there's no better way than to start shipping Microsoft-branded PCs in the United States. Michael Dell and the boys and girls at H-P won't take such a move lying down.
Dvorak's answer to this is that "[Microsoft] has them over a barrel since their only alternative is Linux, which has little chance of becoming popular anytime soon." Uh, where have you been, bro? And do you really think that forcing your hardware partners into a corner with your offerings will keep them *away* from Linux? How would you react if all of the big PC OEMs jumped on the Linux bandwagon, developing their own distros and contributing to kernel development?
Dvorak presumes too much foresight from Microsoft. They put the XBox out there as a way to cover their asses from a flank attack by consoles. Dvorak also thinks "[a]n inordinate effort has been made to integrate the Xbox with the PC, via Microsoft Media PC software." Right. Obviously. I mean, Microsoft wouldn't want to try and standardize their software platforms as much as possible unless they were secretly planning (for the past SIX years) to roll out their own PC hardware. I don't buy the argument that this is a deliberate, well-orchestrated clever Microsoft plan.
If Microsoft does roll out PCs in the US market, it will be just another example of Microsoft reacting to a marketplace that is no longer in its grip. And it will only serve to push hardware OEMs into the arms of Linux.
The "own the OS and let others build the hardware" model was good while it lasted.
If Microsoft really wanted to take some risks and be bold with its future, the company would have a team building a completely new OS, from the ground up, along with the next-generation hardware to run it. And no, Surface doesn't count. Surface is a great concept, but it's a $5-10k table running MS Vista, and it took six years to create.
Give the commando team a year, some money, and a building of their own. If they come up with something good, sell it. Pull a Procter & Gamble and compete against yourself. Stop milking the Windows/Office cow. The teats are going dry, boys and girls.