Dear Microsoft, The Xbox is an x86 PC (stop pretending it’s not)

By | 03/08/2017
xbox image source

Microsoft’s Ken Lobb (think Goldeneye) did an interview with Game Informer (linked from Gamespot) and danced around the fact that the Xbox family of consoles are small form x86 computers (thus they are going to upgrade them like a standard PC instead of releasing an entirely new device).

Here is what he said:

“What’s new is we’ve figured out how to write software in such a way that it can be better, but still be forward and backward compatible,” Lobb explained. “The Xbox One S is a good version of this. It’s better than the One. It’s, you know, less than 10 percent better, but it’s better, and that kind of thing was sort of impossible when you go back to the Super NES. We couldn’t have shipped a 10 percent faster Super NES. Most of the games would have broken. They would have run at a different clock rate, and things would have melted down.  The way we do software development today makes it possible. How can a PC game run on a laptop and on a Titan X? How is that possible? Well, because developers over the last 15 years-plus have figured out how to make their games scale with hardware. So it’s not rocket science to think, ‘Well, gee, if I have an Xbox, can’t I have a more powerful Xbox? And isn’t that better than just one that’s a different color or a little smaller?’ I think that this idea is fantastic.”

What bothers me about this statement is that he won’t just flat out admit the Xbox One is just a small form x86 PC and they are upgrading it.  He makes it sounds like they brought technology from the PC ecosystem (compatibility & upgrades) and console owners now have the benefit of being able to upgrade with backwards compatibility.  Of course it’s backward compatible (its a PC)!  I don’t like the fact that Microsoft and Sony won’t admit to their customer base they are selling upgraded PCs instead of refreshing the hardware cycle.  It’s disingenuous because they are bragging about a feature that they didn’t create (and act like they did).  Sorry Ken, but you aren’t fooling the PC crowd.  You might sell a few console owners on this new “backwards compatibility technology” but the rest of us know what is going on.  Please stop taking credit for something that came along (for free, no investment) when you made the decision that the Xbox One would be an x86 PC.

(Just for the record, I believe consoles should have been using x86 design ten years ago.  It’s the right direction for the industry but it’s ridiculous for Microsoft to pretend they are bringing something new to the table.)