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The Xbox One Is A Split Personality PC Designed To Rule Your Living Room

by on21 May 2013 2010 times
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Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One today in a live media spectacle that felt like a pale imitation of an Apple event. In the end what they unveiled looked a lot like some of the HTPC systems that I used to build more than a gaming console. In truth the new Xbox One probably has more in common with your traditional HTPC than Microsoft would like to admit. But there are still some cool things in it that make it interesting and probably unique in the industry.

As many sites have already said the hardware is impressive, but really you are not getting much more than a low end PC under the hood. You are getting a 8-Core CPU(APU?) , 8GB of system memory and a 500GB hard drive to store things on. You also get the more typical HDMI, USB, Wireless etc. inside the new Xbox One PC. On the surface the new specs might make things look pretty amazing for gaming, but there is actually another reason for this. You see the new Xbox is a virtual machine host. It runs a core OS kernel and three other operating systems to keep things running smoothly. The core is called NT Core and from what we are seeing it is actually an extension of the Singularity Project that Microsoft showed off a few years ago. It allows you to run a single complete Core OS and then multiple operating systems on top of this. Each hosted OS can talk to the others and share data partitions hardware etc. With careful coding of the US you can even have them share the same screen. VMware did this with a system called unity where apps hosted inside a virtual machine ran like local applications. We also see this technique in VMware View and Citrix Xen.

It is this core and hosted OS system that allows for the slick change between different tasks and what makes the system appear to be able to bridge the gap between PC and Console. This move also explains why Microsoft was so eager to kill off the use of a PC as an all-in-one entertainment system. Before Windows 8 you could build a home theatre PC that was able to run your games (even using motion control, voice and game controllers), watch live TV, watch internet TV and also stream media to your system. You just needed a TV tuner card to get this going and you were all set. However this type of system is a serious threat to the Xbox One. Using a PC you can get some serious hardware inside and play games that the Xbox One cannot. You can also do quite a bit more than you can on any console in existence even the split personality Xbox One.

Microsoft wanted in the living room and for years have been pushing the Xbox as the core of the connected home. They envision an ecosystem with the Xbox One at the core, Windows RT and Windows 8 doing a dance for your productivity and Windows Phone 8 for your mobile needs. All of these would connect back to the core using SmartGlass and also the many shared apps in the Windows Store… One Box to rule them all in a manner of speaking. We doubt that this strategy will work out in the end, but there are sure to be people that will buy the Xbox One, if for no other reason that it is a new console. Already there are conversations on Facebook and other Social Networks about the new One. These are about evenly split between those that see the new device as an amazing evolutionary product and those that see it as a dressed up low-end PC.

The truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle. The device has much to like about it not the least of which is the juggling of three operating systems in real-time. The improved Kinect device is very nice and they have overcome many of the limitations of the last generation and added new features to boot. The move to an x86 AMD APU is interesting as it locks out older Xbox 360 games, this is sure to annoy many Xbox enthusiasts and will hurt sales a little. Microsoft is also pushing their Azure cloud again with movies, music, games and other functions all accessible through the cloud. So we have one of two major console announcements out of the way Microsoft announced pre-orders of the new Xbox One today and we are sure that people are already breaking out their credit cards to buy one. The Xbox One is a solid box, but make no mistakes about it; the Xbox One is a PC that is designed to run console games and act as an HTPC and PC at the same time.  Doing this on the Xbox One means that they can also do the same thing with Windows 8 and Windows RT, but they are intentionally restricting this and other features to only the Xbox which could be a strategy that will hurt them in the long run.

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Last modified on 21 May 2013
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