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Move could boost struggling Microsoft operating system

While many people scoffed at or failed to recognized the significance of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) talk of a "unified" development path for Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone, the real world rammifications of that approach are now becoming clear and they're significant.

A pre-order page from Dell for the Xbox One "accidentally" (and, it appears, officially) revealed that Windows 8.1 apps will run on the Xbox.  This is a major boost as it means that reverse is also likely true -- most Xbox One (non-game) apps will run on Windows 8.1.

The Dell page states:

Consider the game officially changed. With all your favorite Windows 8 apps able to be run on and synced to your Xbox One, now your phone, desktop, tablet and TV can all give you a unified web and entertainment experience.

This follows with the virtualized approach discussed by Microsoft with respect to the Xbox One hardware -- an approach in which essentially a full Windows 8.1 virtual machine (with slightly tweaked UI and remapped I/O) runs alongside a game engine virtual machine.

Dell Xbox page
The development detail was confirmed by Dell. [Image Source: Dell via Neowin]
 
This virtualized hardware approach means that the Xbox One is in essence a "special PC" in that it has a purpose built gaming VM sharing resources with a more traditional Windows VM.

For Windows 8.1 this could provide a substantial boost as Xbox has been a strong selling line in the console market and prior to recent controversies has had one of the best brand images of a Microsoft product.  At the same time, while much maligned, Windows 8 has seen decent adoption, even if adoption rates remain poor by Microsoft's standards.  Allowing any Windows 8.1 app to run on the Xbox One will mean a wealth of apps will be available at launch day without having to woo developers to commit, and without developers having to write custom code.
 

The move should save developer time and errors by allowing a single source for Xbox/Windows apps.

Aside from making more apps available on the Xbox One at launch, this approach has other benefits.  For a developer such as Netflix, Inc. (NFLX), they can now add features to just a single source, rather than have to transfer updates between branches of their release repositories.  This should save cross-platform app providers money and developer time.

Thus this unified approach is yet another example of Microsoft's historic focus on putting its developers first, and trying to provide them with the best tools.  Or in the words of departing CEO Steve Ballmer, "Developers, developers, developers!"

Sources: Dell, Neowin



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Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By corduroygt on 10/21/2013 6:01:25 PM , Rating: 1
Otherwise people would just download Chrome and Netflix and not pay the Xbox Live tax. It'll only be 8.1 apps that MS approves.




RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By althaz on 10/21/2013 6:28:14 PM , Rating: 2
Chrome isn't a Windows App, FYI (it's a program that runs on Windows which is somewhat different).


RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By notposting on 10/21/2013 8:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously? You won't be to install that on the Xbox to use it as a Metro app...the only apps you will be getting will be from the store.


RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By inighthawki on 10/21/2013 9:29:13 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't say you could. I was just correcting him, in that there IS a Chrome Windows App.


RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By Flunk on 10/21/2013 10:23:17 PM , Rating: 2
That's not quite true, Microsoft makes an exception for web browsers. The default browser can access the win32 api and is essentially a win32 app with a winRT interface.

They did this because they couldn't manage to totally recode IE for WinRT and they didn't want another antitrust case.

This is the only reason Chrome will run in the Modern UI and also why there is no way it will run on the Xbox One.


By Penti on 10/22/2013 12:46:52 AM , Rating: 3
Most of Microsoft own start screen apps are actually Win32 hybrid apps, that includes their browser and the Windows Store functions itself. Their reimplementations as start screen only apps is generally pretty bad hence peoples app went away, email app was essentially broken and no replacement for desktop email software, stuff like OneNote MX isn't really Onenote at all and support no corporate functions, only sync to Skydrive. Plenty of stuff doesn't even get the Hybrid treatment, mail app was so bad they went ahead with Outlook in desktop on Windows RT devices with .1 update. Despite the fact that Office suite is only of the Home variate.

If they only accept 'Windows Store' apps (and they probably won't even go that far, as that would allow games to run) then Chrome and yes actually their own browser isn't one, but IE will of course be shipped anyway as part of the platform and updated by Windows Update (or specialized console equivalent to keep the OS proper up to date) rather then the Windows Store functions. Windows store apps uses the WinRT runtime, not Win32 directly but indirectly but they are Windows applications. It's not really a step away from Win32 as dependence it's still huge, but an abstraction for Win32 in the same way the .NET framework is. Hence they will never replace Win32, that isn't the goal of the projects and as long as WinRT runtime is restricted to the start screen and metro paradigm it will not garner any traction from the Windows community. There is really no manage vs unmanaged fight going on, and they aren't replacing Win32-bits with anything else. It's essentially not fully under control by GPOs in corporate environments either.

Not that I think Dell knows anything here. Of course they need a Windows OS with full Win32-apis for the browser to run, but that is in just one of the three OS's running on the thing. They also need the Xbox store, music services, video services, their video passthrough functions and capture and so on.


RE: Not all 8.1 apps will run on Xbox
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/21/2013 7:21:38 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Otherwise people would just download Chrome and Netflix and not pay the Xbox Live tax. It'll only be 8.1 apps that MS approves.
The problem is DRM... the Xbox will allow all Windows Store apps (in theory) ... so Netflix should be fine (its an App Store app). Chrome/Firefox, however, are NOT currently in the App Store, hence they'll likely not be allowed. Windows Store apps come packaged with approval DRM hence they'll be Xbox One installable... third party apps? Likely not.

AFAIK you won't need Xbox Live paid sub. to get Netflix or access the Windows Store. Rather, Xbox Live Gold will be necessary to run the DVR, access the smart channel guide and use other select "premium" apps. Other apps should still be useable, from what I've heard thus far (correct me if that's wrong).


By corduroygt on 10/22/2013 1:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
AFAIK you won't need Xbox Live paid sub. to get Netflix or access the Windows Store.

Of course you don't need to pay to access the store, you never did. But Skype for example requires Gold vs. free on a Windows PC/Tablet.
http://www.wpcentral.com/sites/wpcentral.com/files...


By EricMartello on 10/22/2013 9:04:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The problem is DRM... the Xbox will allow all Windows Store apps (in theory) ... so Netflix should be fine (its an App Store app). Chrome/Firefox, however, are NOT currently in the App Store, hence they'll likely not be allowed. Windows Store apps come packaged with approval DRM hence they'll be Xbox One installable... third party apps? Likely not.


DRM is always a problem - and why do they think they need it? Software companies are among the richest in the world despite a lack of DRM in the past.

I'm sure all OS makers would love it if people just bought into the whole centralize app store idea and were willing to part with the ability to run any program they want on their purchased and paid for hardware. It's not the case yet but there's definitely a push in that direction and it is going to backfire unless they wise up.

quote:
AFAIK you won't need Xbox Live paid sub. to get Netflix or access the Windows Store. Rather, Xbox Live Gold will be necessary to run the DVR, access the smart channel guide and use other select "premium" apps. Other apps should still be useable, from what I've heard thus far (correct me if that's wrong).


I wouldn't have a problem with this if the Xbox could act as the STB on its own...but unless it has a cable card slot it will not work as such, and you'll still need the STB from your cable provider which typically comes with $10-$20 a month "rental fee". I don't see the value in paying MS for a channel guide on top of the STB fee but I would pay it instead of the STB fee.


By rsmech on 10/21/2013 10:53:32 PM , Rating: 3
And the problem is? An extra option is better than no option.


By Arsynic on 10/22/2013 9:46:35 AM , Rating: 2
It can run all Windows 8.1 apps, it's just that Xbox will have it's own app store instead of the Microsoft Store.


Interesting, but of questionable value to consumer
By Warren21 on 10/21/2013 5:23:25 PM , Rating: 3
I want to start by saying I really like the idea, more compatibility and a wider app selection can only be a good thing.

That being said, I think more than anything else this is a bigger win for developers/Microsoft than individual consumers. As mentioned, now they only have to dev once for both. For example I can see the Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, etc. apps being a clear win for the average user. But all the other Windows store stuff -- productivity apps? Mail? Who really wants to use the multitude of PC-centric apps on an Xbox, with a controller presumably?

I wonder if there will be some filtering on Microsoft's part to remove the irrelevant apps from the selection or if it will be up to the Xbox user to sift through the trash.




By techxx on 10/21/2013 6:12:07 PM , Rating: 3
I would expect the XB1 to have its own separate appstore. All you should take from this article is that you can expect XB and Windows to run same apps.


By YearOfTheDingo on 10/21/2013 10:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
I see such a scheme as a net negative for developers. Good user interface is hard to do. Making an interface workable across vastly different form factors is a whole lot harder. A program designed initially for desktop Windows will likely offer a sub-par experience on the Xbox. Ideally, you would try optimize the interface for the living room, but you can't really afford to do that knowing that means letting your competitors put their unoptimized products up there first and thereby gaining first-mover advantage. So the whole eco-system ends up getting polluted by crappy software. What this unified approach really leads to is a tragedy of the commons.

Ease of development is not a good thing when it's the wrong kind of easy. Making it easy to be lazy is not the path to excellence.


By chrnochime on 10/22/2013 3:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
Good programs will still prevail and crap ones will still fall to the wayside. Even if comp get their unoptimized products in first, in the long term consumers will still flock to the best product. If you're not comp/quick enough you shouldn't be making software in the first place. GOOD Windows developers get by just fine without artificial segmentation in place to keep their paycheck coming.


By rsmech on 10/21/2013 10:51:43 PM , Rating: 2
How would it be if a consumer had access from their xb1 to view photos, videos, music, from SkyDrive or desktop thru SkyDrive? Not everyone has a PC monitor as big as their TV.


By Labotomizer on 10/22/2013 9:47:25 AM , Rating: 2
I think this is the real reason Kinect was originally going to be required. Kinect 2.0 should be accurate enough to act as a remote touch screen interface. So I think it will be better than expected.


Hard time
By FITCamaro on 10/22/2013 7:01:20 AM , Rating: 2
Believing that Microsoft is running a full Windows 8.1 VM on the Xbox One. That would be a huge waste of resources.




RE: Hard time
By tayb on 10/22/2013 10:45:30 AM , Rating: 2
I want to believe that they will suspend the 8.1 VM when a game is started but I've also heard that they are dedicating a healthy chunk of system resources to "non-gaming" tasks. Who knows.

Microsoft is deep down the path of trying to get consumers used to Windows 8 and Metro so it really isn't hard for me to believe that they would risk their Xbox platform to further this goal.


RE: Hard time
By Labotomizer on 10/22/2013 10:52:22 AM , Rating: 2
The PS4 actually uses a larger portion of resources dedicated to the OS. So...

Also, Windows 8 can easily run on a device with 1GB of memory. It will adapt to the hardware it's on. So having it always hanging out in the background using HyperV would be just fine.


Anndddd...
By ZeeStorm on 10/22/2013 1:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
Debunked! Microsoft denies all of this, and that, while it'll be easier for developers to develop apps on both platforms by keeping development relatively similar, Windows 8 apps will NOT be running on the Xbox One. Please update your article with Microsoft's recent announcement (you can check other blog sites, they're on the ball on that one).




RE: Anndddd...
By ET on 10/22/2013 3:06:24 AM , Rating: 2
What I saw from Microsoft is "The suggestion that all Windows 8 apps run on Xbox One is not accurate," which does deny the idea that all your bases are belong to us, but not that Windows 8 apps can run on the Xbox One. I imagine that it would still help developers create Xbox apps more easily.


Super News!
By DT_Reader on 10/21/2013 5:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
Now I can play Angry Birds and Candy Crush on my Xbox!




By ET on 10/22/2013 3:09:03 AM , Rating: 2
While I'm sure that AAA games will be written directly to the Xbox, it would make sense for indie and casual game developers to create games as Windows apps.




By tumaras on 10/22/2013 3:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
I have Win 8.1, and the problem is that truly almost all of the Windows Store apps are very poor. The majority of them are simply tablified versions of web pages. Music apps (Slacker, Pandora, etc.) are far better with more functionality directly from the site than the Windows apps. Games like the Halo one aren't great either and are better from the desktop.

We've been waiting for things to improve and have been told they will for quite awhile, but Google Play apps are 100x ahead of Windows Store. Not much reason to run Windows apps off my xbox when I don't even run them on my PC. It's the same reason they can barely give away Windows Phones.




Unified System
By Shig on 10/21/13, Rating: -1
RE: Unified System
By techxx on 10/21/2013 5:39:20 PM , Rating: 3
Windows 8.1 is not in beta. Why does a desktop PC and console both running same OS make you so uncomfortable? There are clearly far more advantages than disadvantages - if any.


RE: Unified System
By Shig on 10/21/2013 5:40:34 PM , Rating: 1
The last time Microsoft tried to merge something with the PC it did not work out so well.


RE: Unified System
By Imaginer on 10/21/2013 7:45:12 PM , Rating: 4
Are you talking about Windows 8 and hybrid tablets/laptops?

Because I have been enjoying and have not a problem with my Surface Pro.


RE: Unified System
By retrospooty on 10/22/2013 1:36:44 PM , Rating: 2
I am sure he is referring to to the 1 Billion dollars MS lost on it. Not the satisfaction of the few individuals that bought it.


“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads














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