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Don Mattrick

The competitive landscape for Microsoft’s Xbox console is expanding to include Apple and Google, but the company’s top game and entertainment executive doesn’t see Valve’s move into the living room as particularly competitive with what Microsoft is doing.

That was one of the more interesting tidbits from media event on Microsoft’s Redmond campus yesterday. The annual “TechForum” event offered a chance to hear from most of the company’s divisional presidents, who talked in broad terms about their vision for the future. During a discussion with Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, one reporter asked Mattrick if he believes the Xbox’s set of competitors is expanding to include Apple and Google, in addition to Sony and Nintendo.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “I think we’ve got a broad range of competitors. Nintendo, Sony, Apple, Google would be the top-of-mind companies that we think about in terms of benchmarking our products, benchmarking our offerings.”

With Valve’s Big Picture Mode and planned “Steam Box” in mind, I was surprised that the list didn’t include Valve, so I followed up and asked Mattrick if he see Valve as a competitor.

He replied: “No. I think they’re doing some innovative stuff. They’ve created some great experiences. The scale of products and things that are being brought to market are probably a little bit richer when I look at Sony, Nintendo, Apple, Google. But I love Gabe (Newell), the Valve co-founder. Was there for his lifetime achievement award. It’s wonderful to see what they’ve created.”

In my mind, this was most interesting not as a comment on Valve but as a clue about Microsoft’s ongoing ambitions to expand the Xbox 360 as an entertainment device, which is where the primary competition with Google and Apple will take place.

By the way, reporters were told in advance that Mattrick wouldn’t be revealing any details of the next Xbox, and he held true to that promise.

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