Why hasn’t Microsoft ever released an Xbox-based PC?

In four generations of Xbox consoles we have never seen a version of it that works like a PC. While Xbox 360 was not based on computer hardware, the first one and later both Xbox One and Xbox Series were. It was even raised in its day as a low-cost computer. What prevents Microsoft from doing it?

Xbox has certain differences compared to a PC

We have to start from the fact that Xbox runs three operating systems at the same time, the first one, which is Hyper-V, is the one that has direct access to the hardware and gives it to each of the two operating systems in the following way in a fixed and equitable manner, and this can be summarized as:

  • The number of cores and execution threads assigned to each of the systems.
  • What part of the RAM memory is assigned to one operating system or another.
  • The usage percentage of accessory components, such as the GPU, are assigned to each system.

Now, the first of the operating systems is called Game OS that runs all the instances of the game, while it is active, the resources corresponding to the Shared OS are not used, but are on standby. When is the change? When we access the game menu or use Apps such as Netflix, which run on a version of Windows based solely on the Universal Windows Platform, UWP, and therefore cannot load applications under the Win32 API, it is because of That reason we can’t load PC games on Xbox.

If we think about it, Microsoft could create a fusion between PC and Xbox in the same device, but by replacing the Shared OS part with that of a conventional Windows, the problem is that then the hardware necessary to run both environments would increase considerably.

What would your hardware be like?

The idea of ​​creating a PC based on Xbox hardware may seem like a good idea at first, however, with it, Microsoft loses the ability to finance the hardware with the proceeds through royalties on games and accessories, as well as in subscriptions like Game Pass. So the base console should sell for $100-$200 higher.

In addition, that those from Redmond could not afford a larger chip than that of the Xbox Series X, which measures 360 mm2, a size well above PC chips, which despite being a single chip that includes a processor and graphics card is at the ideal limit in terms of size. So the chip used in this Xbox Series as a PC would be the same as in Microsoft’s top console. However, although the chip would be the same, the PCB used would be different.

More memory for applications

The Xbox Series memory system is based on two different memory accesses:

  • The first of these is a memory access from the GPU, which is not consistent with system RAM. 10 GB on Xbox Series X and 8 GB on Series S are accessed exclusively and using the entire GDDR6 bus and, therefore, the two memory channels of each chip on the board exclusively for the graphics processor.
  • The second access is through the CPU’s memory controller, which has a 256-bit bus, but at memory clock speed. GDDR6 runs at 1/4 of its transfer speed, so take 56 GB/s of bandwidth on one of the two channels. The other is left to the GPU which is limited to using 224 GB/s. Hence, on Xbox there are parts of the RAM that go to different bandwidths.

We must start from the fact that in Xbox Series we have 16 GB of memory on a 320-bit bus, which is an abnormal figure and is due to the use of 1 and 2 GB chips in the console. So it would be possible to create a PC with 20 GB capacity and allocate that extra memory to the Windows part of the operating system. The problem would rather come from the applications in the Windows environment, the processing resources would certainly be limited, since the majority would be assigned to games and close to 80% of the resources could not be used, which would be a waste. enormous.

Xbox Apps Menu

Xbox and PC are different beasts

Contrary to what many think, an Xbox as a PC would not let us install any Windows application, but only those that are usually developed for UWP, period, so we would not lose a large part of the Windows application catalog. The only incentive on the part of Microsoft would be to port Office and other applications, but the fiasco of the universal applications has been so great that they themselves have let the platform fall and languish, which was a failed attempt to renew Windows

Adding Windows as-is to Xbox is a much bigger effort than people realize. While they are binary compatible, there are a number of countermeasures that prevent this from being done and the main one is not technical. What will assemblers and computer manufacturers think if suddenly Microsoft competes with a much cheaper system? Consider that one of the main sources of money they have is the Windows licenses that are sold with each PC.

In any case, Xbox has a different boot system than the PC and, therefore, it is not easy to carry out the process. This was done to prevent anyone from installing Windows on the Xbox in order to protect their core business.

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