What if the just-announced Xbox One runs Windows 8 apps? Could this be the boost that Microsoft’s store and app platform needs?
Microsoft has yet to describe the app story for the One in detail, but it would make sense. Here is what we know, as I understand it, though it is no doubt an over-simplification.
Xbox One is described as having three operating systems: a virtualisation host, a Windows OS for general purpose use (including web browsing, Skype, and I would guess the management app), and a dedicated games OS. The games OS runs in parallel, so you can do instant switching between a game and other activities like watching TV, or have a Windows 8-style snapped view where both are visible.
The Apps element on the One will, I presume, be part of the Windows OS. There is considerable commonality between the demands of a touch UI and that of a TV UI (where you are sitting well back from the screen). A touch UI demands large targets so you can hit them with fat fingers, while a TV UI requires large targets so you can see them from a distance. It could be that the tendency towards large, chunky controls in the “Metro” Windows 8 UI is partly driven by planned support for Xbox, even though this tendency is frustrating for desktop users sitting close-up to large screens.
It is unlikely that Microsoft will introduce a completely new app model for Xbox One. Rather, I would expect to see some compatibility between Windows Store apps and Xbox One apps, with differences to account for the different platforms. No accelerometer or touch control on the Xbox One, for example, though you have Kinect which enables a touch-like interaction though hand detection.
What about the OS partitioning? This may mean that the powerful One GPU will not be available to app developers, or that game apps follow an entirely distinct development model.
If developers can easily share code between Xbox One apps and Windows Store apps, with Windows Phone 9 added to the mix at some future date, will that be enough to get some momentum behind Microsoft’s app platform?