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Well this will escalate quickly. News has surfaced explaining the three operating systems of the Xbox One. We all knew there was some form of Windows 8 involved, but what a lot of people didn't know was that it's literally running Windows 8.
WCCF Tech has an excellent breakdown of how the three operating systems work on the Xbox One, explaining in laymen terms how Microsoft's latest game console runs apps, games and talks directly to the hardware.
Now, it was described before that the three operating systems required 3GB of the Xbox One's 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Any gamer who says desktop PCs have more memory overhead are just trolling.
Anyway, the first of the three systems is what allows for the hardware interface to happen: the software talking to the hardware through a kernel. WCCF breaks this down as an RTOS or a real-time operating system. All the instructions and requests to the hardware are handled through this “Host” OS.
The second layer of the operating systems is a true Windows 8 partition. According to WCCF Tech, this is “virtually indistinguishable” from the standard desktop Windows 8 partition you'll find in any common computer, as far as coding goes. This handles all the basic operating functions of the Xbox One, such as the dashboard shell, networking and audio features. All the main apps also run from this partition.
The third layer is called an “Exclusive” partition. Speaking with Microsoft's Frank Savage, the lead programming architect for the Xbox One, at this year's Build Conference, WCCF Tech learned that the “Exclusive” OS partition is a stripped down version of Windows 8, with Savage saying...
[It's] “windows 8 that has gone on a massive massive diet…… lean and mean windows 8″.
This partition handles a lot of the API requests and call functions. So, that lovely “Banana Surprise” that comes in the form of DirectX 12 will run through this “Exclusive” partition on the Xbox One. The DirectX calls and GPU functions from top layer software speak directly to this “Exclusive” partition and then the partition takes it straight to the host OS. So it's not quite “directly to the metal” like AMD's Mantle, but it's a two-step process to get there.
However, that's not the best part of it all. According to Savage...
“any game I made ran equally well on Windows 8 (desktop) and Xbox One”.
Here's the money shot quote: If you can make your game on the Xbox One, you can run it on a Windows 8 compatible PC. Bam!
This reminds me of when Microsoft first introduced the XNA tool suite for the Xbox 360, where the tagline was: “If you can make games for PC, you can make games for the Xbox 360”.
Sure enough, a ton of developers took Microsoft up on that offer and lo and behold, we have the Xbox Live Indie Game channel.
However, I'm hoping that in the case of the Xbox One, the reverse is possible. Back when the Xbox 360 released it was a pretty high-end machine, and it did – for a time – run games better than the average PC. Getting games from PC to the Xbox 360 was a real highlight. However, times have changed and the Xbox One has come in far behind the curve of the average mid-ranged desktop PC. Hence, I would (preferably) love, love, love to play Forza Motorsport on PC. The modding possibilities are just mouth-watering.
Hopefully Microsoft doesn't squander this opportunity, because I would be willing to buy a separate PC with Windows 8 on it just to play certain Xbox One exclusives.