• Paul Fingleton

Xbox One and Windows 10: What does it mean for You?

When Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took to the stage at Microsoft's Windows 10 event in January, it started the official chatter of the marriage of Windows 10 and Xbox One. But what will it mean in the long term for the Xbox? Let's take a closer look.

Of course, the relationship between Xbox One and Windows is already closer than you think. The Xbox One already runs a version of the Windows 8 Kernel and uses a variation of Microsoft's enterprise virtualisation solution Hyper-V to manage the two Operating Systems that Xbox uses for Apps and Video Games.

Well, Windows 10 is bringing a bit more than a new version number to the party as Microsoft looks to unify all their devices under the one OS.

DirectX 12

We have covered previously how some developers are talking about the benefits of DirectX 12 for PC Gamers. The benefits of DirectX 12 is that it allows CPUs with multiple cores to each talk with the GPU (Graphics Processor), where earlier versions of DirectX only allowed one thread to talk at a time. This means the CPU and GPU can work better together to more efficiently do their calculations and drawing, and most importantly it will benefit even existing graphics hardware.

The last benefit is most important for Xbox One owners, as the graphics hardware inside the Xbox One cannot be replaced by a new one in the middle of a console life cycle.

So, Xbox one users can expect to see a speed or graphics fidelity bump for games that are designed to use DirectX 12. How much of a bump is not yet known, but some developers are hinting at 10-20% in places.

Cross-Platform Support

Console gamers and PC Gamers are different breeds of the same animal. Both have a love for their hardware and want to play the newest and best games on their setup.

With Windows 10 running on both platforms, using the same APIs to access the Xbox Live infrastructure, Microsoft will be opening up Cross-Platform support to developers. This includes messaging and online play.

Of course, this is something that is open for the developers to use, if they wish. Some game type will suit cross platform play - strategy, RPG, Co-Op games; Others will not - twitch FPS games, or games where the higher resolution on PC will give snipers a better view to pick you off.

Regardless, anything that brings more opponents or team mates into the environment is surely a good thing.

Game Streaming

This is a feature I could have done with a last month. We had some builders in the house doing work and our sitting room was off limits for a few weeks. Microsoft have done a great job of integrating the Xbox One into your entertainment setup, but it also means that dismantling it and moving it around is not as easy.

Sure, you could always buy a separate Xbox One Console for every TV in the house, but that is an expensive habit to get into.

How much better would it have been with this Game Streaming feature, where any Windows 10 device - currently we understand this as any x86 Windows 10 device, but might include phones in future - will become available to use for streaming the games from your Xbox One. That is streaming games that you are playing on your Xbox One to your device.

All the game and graphics processing is handled on the Xbox One, so stick a cheap mini desktop, like the HP Stream Mini Desktop, or buy a cheap Windows Tablet like the Linx 7, 8 or 10 and hook up an Xbox One controller to it and you are good to go. Any digital game installed on your Xbox One can be played in this way, if you own a disc based game the disc will need to be in the disc tray but otherwise it's the same as playing the game locally.

App Support

Now, this is not vital for any games console to survive, but it is a nice feature to have. All Windows 10 devices will essentially have the same Operating System - not only the same kernel as with the Xbox One and Windows 8 - and Applications coded for Windows 10 PCs can be quickly recompiled and released for Xbox One.

It doesn't mean that we'll be getting achievements for Pivot Tables in Excel on the Xbox One, but a Facebook app written for one platform could run on both.

In addition to this games and apps purchased on one platform (Windows 10 PC) could then also be made available and playable on another (Xbox One), or vice versa.

We still have Microsoft's \\Build conference later this month where we will see more of the future for this App and Cross-buy market for Windows 10 and Xbox One.

There are many other advantages yet to be announced and to be observed in Windows 10 and Xbox One. Stay tuned for more of our coverage over the coming weeks.

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