PC-to-Xbox One Game Streaming Inevitable, And Will Accelerate The Death Of …

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Microsoft Just Unveiled a Futuristic Headset That Beams ‘Holograms’ Into Your Room.

Here’s a bold prediction: Microsoft will deliver the ability to stream your PC game library to an Xbox One console, and they’ll make the official announcement by the time E3 2015 rolls around. The device and its accompanying software, called the “HoloLens” and “Windows Holographic” respectively, look similar to virtual reality headsets already on the market.As spelled out by Microsoft on Wednesday, Windows 10 corrects the company’s clumsy attempt to be all things to all people, i.e., simultaneously a touch and desktop operating environment.

However, Microsoft’s device projects 3-D content into the physical world already around you rather than putting you in a different virtual world entirely. In short, Windows 10 promises to compartmentalize itself: run a mouse-and-keyboard operating system on a PC, then switch to a touch-friendly OS on a tablet. (See this preview of Windows 10.) That could’ve been done sooner, of course.

The company pitched the HoloLens and Windows Holographic as tools to help investors, designers and scientists interface with their work in ways never before possible. The HoloLens can also power augmented reality gaming, which blends the virtual and physical worlds for a unique entertainment experience that’s not possible on standard gaming consoles or computers. I’ve used Windows 8 extensively on the first Surface Pro tablet, the Surface Pro 2, the Surface Pro 3 and, now, on a Dell XPS 13 (with a touch screen).

Xbox head Phil Spencer teased reporters during a group Q&A at their Windows 10 press event, saying that “People ask about the streaming in the opposite direction–can I stream from my PC to my Xbox?–and I’ll just say it’s something that we’re really looking at.” I guarantee Spencer and company are doing more than merely “looking at” the functionality. There’s no word yet on how much the device will cost, but the company did say it would be available around the same time as its new PC operating system, Windows 10.

Belfiore said Windows 10′s ability to switch between tablet and PC mode allows the device to be used “in a natural way without the UI [user interface] being something that’s confusing to people.” Bingo. When I use Windows 8.1, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking: why would such a storied software company with all that design expertise/experience spit out such a two-headed monstrosity. “Windows 10 is what Windows 8 ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’ been,” Bob O’Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research (and formerly an IDC analyst) said in response to an email query.

Let’s dissect a subsequent quote from Spencer concerning PC-to-Xbox One streaming, as shared by GameSpot: “If you think about that vision — my games are my games wherever I am, and I can play with whoever I want to play with — we want to be able to land solutions that are as native as the one we showed there. This user comment (attached to a Wall Street Journal article) is typical: “Reduced to randomly tapping, swiping from this corner or that edge, hoping to find the secret handshakes needed to just shut it down.” Bingo again.

We just have to kind of work with the physics of time and work it through.” The actual hardware requirements for streaming a game from, say, your main gaming PC to another device like an Intel Compute Stick, Nvidia Shield, Macbook Air, or Razer Forge TV are minimal. And in the same article, the writer (when reviewing the new Dell XPS 13), stated the obvious about Windows 8/8.1 calling it “the Franken-OS” that tries to cobble together two separate (tablet and desktop) experiences.

For Steam games specifically, all that’s needed is a CPU (preferably a quad-core) with built-in H.264 decoding on the client computer (or console, as it were). As Spencer mentioned, the real obstacle is one of development and optimization, but having Windows 10 at the core of both host and client platforms would feasibly simplify those coding headaches. But Microsoft is rapidly changing my mind, and I’m certain I’m not alone in this.) It would also establish further cohesion of Microsoft’s ecosystem.

Take a look at this sentence, which is Microsoft’s guiding philosophy for Windows 10: “Technology should be out of the way and your apps, services and content should move with you across devices, seamlessly and easily.” What has Microsoft already done to embrace this? And while it wouldn’t eliminate the desire for Steam Machines among the ever-diminishing faithful, it could certainly threaten the initiative — provided it ever sees the light of day.

Look, I know there are people championing the death of Windows and the rise of Linux — and their reasons are often valid — but it’s just not going to happen. You can buy one of these mythical Steam Machines and use Valve’s Steam OS to play 1/20th of the possible PC gaming catalog, or you can build a low-cost machine to just stream 100% of your library to any other room in the house. And we’ve seen companies like Alienware capitalize on Valve’s delays by designing their own console-like UI and re-purposing prior Steam Machine hardware (previously not upgradeable) to an upgradeable console-like PC. Not to mention the fact that Windows 10 finally looks like a reason to jump ship from our beloved Windows 7. (And Linux, frankly, is still a nightmare for gaming.) The only reason I can think of that Microsoft wouldn’t venture down this path, is that they stand to lose a small chunk of change should people choose the PC version of a multiplatform game over the Xbox One version.

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