I'm about to discuss an idea currently couched in fantasy, but one that's probably occurred to more than one Windows, Xbox, or Windows Phone user already. The cards seem laid out. The coincidences and similarities seem too great to ignore. Also, there's this: we're talking about one company, Microsoft, and its products.
A new Xbox is likely to be on its way--maybe in just a couple of years--and rumors have flown regarding its capabilities, processing power, and even whether or not it will have physical discs. Of all of these Xbox rumors, one I don't hear discussed at all is the possibility of Windows 8 being the next Xbox's core operating system.
As weird as it sounds, it's a theoretically logical concept. Here's why.
Metro UI already looks the new 360 dashboard. A graphical language is clearly being laid out by Microsoft, and I don't think it's just window dressing. Squint, and Windows 8 on a PC looks an awful lot like an Xbox 360. At Microsoft's press event, I was even checking for a Gamer Score. Apps are easily managed on the Metro UI, and that style of tile-based app management is starting to come into play with the Kinect and when dealing with the Xbox's growing collection of apps--video, music, and otherwise.
Social integration. Windows Live is the throughline to connect Xbox Live and Windows Mobile phones, Windows 8, and even iOS apps. That connectivity should grow, and not just via Windows Live. Twitter, Facebook, and other social connecting points should be baked into the next Xbox--not for sharing game progress tweets, but for audio/video chat.
Apps that work on Windows 8 should work on the Xbox--video, news, or whatever's a good fit. Integration of apps across PC and Xbox would populate the next Xbox with a ton of interesting functions--and based on the fact that Microsoft has already been experimenting with Kinect development, it seems in keeping with Microsoft's philosophy that the Xbox gain more functionality, too. Windows 8 already works with a handful of Xbox-to-Windows video-streaming and friend-management functions, and even some cross-platform gaming. Opening this compatibility up further feels natural, especially if Microsoft is trying to build a stable of apps in its ecosystem.
Microsoft gets a PC in the living room, at last. Media Center PCs and other failed attempts therein have littered the road along the PC industry's continuing efforts to get computers to mesh with your TV. The Xbox is millions of users strong, and a slow-but-steady push to add set-top box functions and TV apps may be easing the idea of "living room PC" into the skittish PC-averse user's mind. The next Xbox could finish the evolution. And, honestly, I'd rather use the Kinect on a PC in my living room than on a laptop.
Windows 8's clean app-based ecosystem might be less messy on a console, and less prone to malware. Microsoft seems intent in the tablet space on making a clean walled-off space where apps can be installed, almost like Apple's iOS. That's a better fit in a future console than shoehorning old-fashioned Windows. I imagine Windows 8 on a console working a lot like Windows on a tablet...a more streamlined experience, but cross-compatible.
Windows 8 has a multitude of input methods, making it suitable for Kinect and consoles. You could conceivably navigate Windows 8 via Metro UI in a living room. Microsoft demonstrated the concept on TV-size screens...why not an Xbox?
Microsoft becomes a true Apple TV rival. Sooner or later, Apple is purportedly releasing a TV with true app functionality and Siri voice recognition. The funny thing is, a next-gen Xbox with Kinect is essentially the same thing, but it could gain a foothold faster because of Microsoft's console gaming experience and expanded relationships with cable companies and video content. The battle for your living room will suddenly be split between Apple and Microsoft...just like old times.
If the next Xbox has a tablet-like controller, then Windows 8 seems like the perfect marriage. If we're to believe rumors of a touch-screen tablet-like device working in tandem with the next Xbox, then why not have Windows 8 be the interface? Microsoft's tablet efforts now seem like an easy modification into a next-gen touch-based Xbox UI. Maybe it's a variation on Windows 8, like iOS on the Apple TV is clearly not the same as iOS on an iPad. In fact, it would probably have to be, to keep some level of control over the console.
Microsoft can attempt to bury the PlayStation. Sony and Microsoft have been in relative lock-step for years with two equally good and surprisingly similar gaming platforms. One thing Microsoft can do with relative ease than Sony can't is flip the switch and offer a fuller computing experience, leveraging the Windows side to its favor. Sony's had a harder time in apps and OS software, despite offering some quality video apps on the PS3.
I'll stop listing reasons, because the list could go on and on. How do you feel about it? I've never been much of a PC gamer, but the idea of a Windows-capable Xbox suddenly excites me like nothing else...because I can actually see it happening. We're due for a new Xbox in the next few years, and as Windows 8 continues its multiscreen expansion strategy, integrating the Xbox at long last seems like the inevitable final step.
Or, I'm just crazy. After all, hacking, closing off the Xbox operating system properly, and price competition between the Xbox and Windows PCs suggest this is unlikely.
Then again, Apple found a way with iOS devices despite the existence of Macs, didn't it?