Saturday, April 27, 2013

XBOX more Windows than console

Article first published as XBOX More Windows than Console on Technorati.


By now you're probably aware that May 21st is a big day for Microsoft.  That's when we'll hopefully get some details about the next  generation Xbox.  Of course if it's anything like the PS4 announcement we'll just see a bunch of game demos. 

That and at some point somebody's arms flailing about in front of a Kinect sensor.

EA, the game publishing giant, is apparently on board with the new console after two anonymous  sources leaked a few tantalizing tidbits about an exclusive add-on content deal.  Exactly what that means, however, is still a matter of supposition.

Until now, all we really knew from all the leaked developer kits, anonymous tips and antisocial behavior from a former creative director is that the console was going to be based on Intel X86 architecture, require an Internet connection to function and have a Blu-Ray Drive.

Which may as well be a press release for the Sony PS4.

Then on April 25th Paul Thurrott, longtime watcher of all things Microsoft, wrote an article for WindowsITPro called, "HereComes the Next Xbox"

Thurrott is a respected author, blogger and head honcho at winsupersite.com and has access to those in the know at Microsoft.  Basically if Thurrott says it's real there's a 99% chance it is.
From his article we know this much about the next XBOX.  

  • ·         We still don'tknow its name will be but it definitely won't be XBOX 720.
  • ·         It'll cost you $500 ($300 w/2 year XBOX Live sub. at $10/mo.) 
  • ·         It won't run Xbox 360 software but the 360 will still exist.
  • ·         It's going to be running the Windows 8 Operating System


Yes, you read that right.  The next XBOX will be running Windows and not Windows RT or some strange derivative.  Thurrott says it will be based on Windows 8 Core which is the entry level Windows 8 operating system complete with tiles and media player and all of that. 

Of course it will be heavily modified for the console but at its heart it's still Windows 8.  The Modern (or Metro) tile interface would seem to lend itself to just such an application so long as the translation from touch centric to something more in line with a console could be adapted.

That's the rub.  Windows 8 may be Microsoft's one user interface to rule them all but on a console, even one based on X86, you're still dealing with a limited sandbox.  It has to be that way or else you're just selling a $500 PC that you can't upgrade.

Thurrott stated in his article that the "always on" Internet requirement wouldn't be as "draconian" as people think. 

The question that comes to the forefront is why have it at all then?  How can a console be required to always have a connection to the Internet if it isn't for DRM?

I think I've got the answer and it goes straight back to the operating system. 

Remember, Thurrott said the OS was based on Windows 8 core.  If that's so then it's going to be subject to the same patch cycle as any other Windows 8 deployment.  Even in a sandbox, security holes, bug fixes and the like will need to be applied on a regular schedule. 

Which brings up a very real concern for the platform because it's going to require Microsoft to be ever vigilant or face the potential disaster of millions of Windows 8 consoles suddenly being bricked by an unpatched vulnerability.

It's my own supposition but it's the only way I can see an "always on" requirement being less draconian. 
We'll know more in a few weeks at the announcement and at this year's E3 where Microsoft is supposed to spill all the beans about the console.

I guess this is what they meant by convergence.
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