It turns out that Xbox – short for DirectX Box – is the least-weird name Microsoft had up its sleeve 12 years ago.
Republishing an article from the lost print-only archives of 2003, Edge Online spoke to Seamus Blackley, one of the original minds behind the first Xbox. In the interview, Blackley talked about the process of choosing the name itself and some of the insane names the so-called 'naming guys' wanted.
When the group making the system hit the first round of potential names, they were told that the name we now know it by "wasn't legally sound." After the code names – DirectX Box, Windows Entertainment Project and Midway – they went through a round that was so bad that they didn't even bother to write them down, instead just calling them 'car names.'
It's usually bad karma to hope that people might have lost their jobs, but the next round of names, which Blackley did think to write down, was terrible. The examples listed are so bad, it's tough to imagine what else they might've left behind.
Here's a few from the interview:
FACE – Full Action Center
MIND – Microsoft Interactive Network Device
MAX – Microsoft Action Experience
O2 – Optimal Ozone
TSO – Three, Six, Zero
A few notes about some of the things the 'naming guys' came up with before they were (in my fantasy) sacked: Three Six Zero is one they obviously came back to, though the decision to switch to numbers was well-advised. Words like Network and Live can be seen throughout the list, showing that things like Xbox Live were in the pipe from the beginning. It's things like Optimal Ozone that really get strange.
The complete list can be found at the link listed at the end. Here's a few more I came up with: AIR (Artificial Intelligence Reactor), BRAIN (Big Reaction And Interaction Network), COOL (Central Optical Odyssey Level)… The list is so weird that nothing I come up with here could be weirder.