The Xbox 720 is nearing, along with the coincidental(?) release dates of Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface. With all three exhibiting the Metro interface and integrating cloud computing within their operation, it’s no surprise that Dave Cutler (of DEC VMS and Windows Azure fame) has joined the Xbox team to work on the 720 – but what implications does this bring about for the integration of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, gaming platform, and now tablet? A world of fully integrated and seamless computing is very near in the realm of Microsoft products.
Dave Cutler is well-known in the tech world for being the primary developer of Digital Equipment Corporation’s VMS (virtual memory system) operating system, now since acquired by HP and rebranded OpenVMS.
Since then, he has joined Microsoft and pioneered the development of Windows Azure, Microsoft’s stab at a cloud computing system (confirmed to use Linux in its infrastructure). However, earlier this year he was assigned to work on the Xbox project, which gives several hints at new developments within the Xbox 720 speculation.
Cloud-based Xbox Live
Xbox live is already server-driven, as is the rest of the Internet. But bringing a cloud developer to the team says a lot about how the service is about to expand to accommodate new features.
One possibility is the integration of Xbox live with Windows Azure to bring about a unified cloud system that would allow developers to target apps at Xbox Live-enabled games, or to push ads in a smarter manner to the gaming market for additional revenue for both Microsoft as the middleman and publishers as the source.
With the social aspect of Bing, Microsoft’s investments in Facebook and recent acquisition of social services, the Xbox could be extended further from a gaming/media console to an all-around online media hub within its next release, with more Kinect-based features as well as updated hardware.
The Xbox 720 we’re about to see will be more focused on expanding beyond just a gaming and media system, and more into a social hub for content and integration with the rest of the Internet beyond Xbox Live’s walled garden.
OS Enhancements and Surface
Keeping with the Azure development, the Xbox OS is being developed in part by a man who pioneered OS development, so expect more lower-level optimizations on top of all that embedded hardware as well.
Kinect is input/output intensive, and when those signals need to be processed and network-routed through layers of operating systems and hypervisors (yes, hypervisors, look up the 360′s architecture before you flame a comment), surely Cutler can offer some optimizations to make the new Xbox more open to later updates and not be easily bogged-down.
On the user-mode side of things, the new Metro Xbox dashboard brings about more Windows/PC/Surface integration than ever seen in a console before.
Apps written to take advantage of Metro can easily be extended to the Xbox dashboard seamlessly, something we already explored slash predicted in the article “Computers in the Avengers Movie – A Reality” and analyzed in “.NET on Windows 8 ARM.”
In this respect, the Xbox 720 becomes a natural extension of the personal computer in the ever-blurring line thanks to the Surface’s announcement – which is by no means an accident given the release dates’ overlapping between Windows 8, the Xbox 720 and the full release of Microsoft Surface.
The Xbox 360 already uses RDP to extend the Windows Media Center app to the system, so expect nothing less – especially with respect to the cloud – with the Xbox 720.
Do you have any additional insights on this? Let us know in the comments.
Mark is a "veteran" (and current) system administrator for a local IT firm in his hometown. He is notorious from his Coffee Desk days as the "funny guy" of the editorial staff, writing some pieces for sheer comic relief to the pleasure of many readers (example). Aside from his priceless humor, he has ample insight in the fields of networking and programming given his years of experience with them, often making quips about his own age in the process. Mark is the oldest member of the editors, and by far the most regular. Contributor, that is. :D
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