Xbox design chief replaced ahead of 2013 "Xbox 720"

Microsoft is believed to have replaced the design architect responsible for the Xbox 360 user-experience, Dan Coyner, an acolyte of Apple-style consistency in user experience and a mainstay of the gaming project since its inception. Coyner, general manager of Design and Planning within the Xbox team, has been replaced with Emma Williams, CNET's sources claim, who led this month's Xbox dashboard update.

Originally at the helm of Xbox marketing, Coyner's role broadened with the arrival of the Xbox 360 to encompass user experience. In that position he espoused a so-called unified design philosophy, where all elements of the UI, whether for gaming, multimedia or something else, fall together in a consistent manner. Although ostensibly a straightforward ambition, unification is something Microsoft has historically struggled to achieve in Windows, with multiple groups and teams working on disparate elements of the software.

"He wanted to whole user experience to be consistent, like an Apple product," Xbox biographer Dean Takahashi wrote in 2006 of Coyner's strategy, "where everything from the screen to the package looked like it was designed by just one person."

It's unclear at this stage why Coyner moved, and what his future role within Microsoft may be. The company itself has declined to comment "on personnel issues" but the sources suggest the exec is remaining in Microsoft's employ. Williams will now lead design on the next-gen Xbox, tongue-in-cheek referred to as the "Xbox 720", which a source in the team has confirmed is on the roadmap for a 2013 release as per earlier rumors. In fact, Microsoft is believed to be readying a pair of new consoles, one hardcore gaming flagship and a second, slimmed-down model with a focus on casual gaming and multimedia use.

Microsoft is also believed to have demoted former Windows Phone chief Andy Lees recently over concerns that the division chief wasn't achieving the sort of smartphone market penetration he was publicly promising.

[Image credit: Wired]