The third screen: Will all Windows 8 apps run on Microsoft's Xbox One?

The third screen: Will all Windows 8 apps run on Microsoft's Xbox One?

Summary: MS CRM on your Xbox One? Will any and all Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps be allowed to run on the just-announced Xbox One?


Is it really so crazy to think that users will be able to run Microsoft CRM on their Xboxes in the not-so-distant future?


After Microsoft's May 21 Xbox One reveal -- which included information about the coming Xbox One operating system that is based on Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor technology -- some developers and users were left wondering whether Microsoft is going to enable any Metro-Style Windows 8 or Windows RT application to run on the next Xbox.

Microsoft officials aren't talking about the Xbox One developer story yet; it sounds like they are planning/hoping to hold off until the Build 2013 conference in late June to share more details on that. But here's what I've gleaned from talking to my sources about this.

As we learned yesterday, the Xbox One OS includes a host OS, which is a heavily modified Hyper-V hypervisor; and two partitions. One partition, called the "Exclusive" partition, is a custom virtual machine (VM) that is designed just for games. It is designed to give games on the Xbox One complete control on everything from memory management to storage, I hear. While games can be paused or switched, only one game can run at a time in this VM. (If Microsoft steps up its support for indie games on Xbox One, those games are going to run in this partition.)

The other piece of the new OS the "Shared" partition. It's called shared because multiple applications can share this VM. According to one of my contacts, this VM is based on the Windows 8 "core," which means the kernel, file system, graphics stack, networking stack and security elements. Like the Windows core that is shared with Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, the Shared partition core is based on the WinRT application programming interface (API). One of my sources said internally it's actually called XRT, similar to the way the Windows Phone implementation of WinRT is known internally as WinPRT.

However, the similarities between the Windows environments seem to end there. On top of the Xbox One Shared Partiion core, the Xbox team created a custom UI for Xbox One. Microsoft supposedly isn't going to allow just anyone to write apps that can run here; devs will have to be chosen and invited, the way that they are now on Xbox 360. And they're not going to be inviting Salesforce or Oracle or even the Microsoft SharePoint team to write apps to run here. More likely are things like Netflix and Skype and other media/companion/social kinds of apps.

Core first-party, Microsoft apps like Xbox Music and Video will run in the Shared Partition, too. But these won't just be the same Windows 8/Windows RT versions of these apps; instead, they'll be Xbox-customized ones that will make use of chunks of the Windows 8/Windows RT complements' code, according to my source. (There need to be customized to work with the Xbox controllers and Kinect.)

I'd think as Microsoft continues to add more features and functionality to Windows 8, starting with Windows 8.1 (Blue), some of these security/reliability/performance-focused features will find their way back into the Shared Partition Core. So yeah... don't be looking for the new Start Button or a way to boot straight to desktop on your Xbox One, even when these options come to Windows 8.1.

So at Build 2013, I do expect Microsoft to play up the message that there's increasing a common core codebase on Windows Phone, Windows PCs and tablets and the coming Xbox. There will no doubt be more on the increasingly common developer platform for all of these screens. This year won't be the year when there is just one shared developer platform across these screens (even if Microsoft officials go so far to claim this is the case). Nor will there be a unified Windows Store for Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One this year. 

It's taking a while to turn the ship and more closely align the release cadences across all the teams that develop anything that involves a flavor of Windows. Yet slowly and surely, Microsoft's moving in that direction. 

Topics: Windows 8, Cloud, Microsoft, Software Development, Virtualization, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • The Course is Set

    Excellent observation. By building this infrastructure into this system it seems like adding new Virtual Machine images into the system years from now could happen as a "service pack". It is giving them a platform that is a "Platform of Platforms". This is building a system that has the ability to run stuff that hasn't even been invented yet. Pretty flippen' clever
    • Microsoft is back in the game.

      They are starting to offer a vast variety of premium products. Kinect 2.0 is awesome, the Xbox one is awesome, the controllers are awesome, the surface is $*#&@%@ good and WP8 is great.
      Emmanuel Fransson
      • LOL...

        I thought the M$ shill king was Loverock-Davidson.
        Now he has some serious competition!
        LlNUX Geek
        • You fail to debate his points

          If you think they are posting misinformation then debunk it.

          It shouldn't be that hard should it?
        • at least I don't spend my time

          On trolling every other platform than the one I like. I have some respect for others tastes.
          Emmanuel Fransson
        • Back to the fry station - smoke break is over with

          you need save for that new guage so you can show it off...
      • Any word on bringing phone apps to Windows 8?

        It would be a big boost to both Windows Phone developers and to Windows 8 app Store to get a giant influx of WP8 apps on all Windows 8/RT devices.

        Really hope they are working on getting WinPRT apps to run on WinRT. iPhone apps run on iPad. Android phone apps run on Android tablets. Windows Phone developers are at a disadvantage that their apps don't run on Windows 8.
        • I believe this will happen.

          Microsoft is moving towards a unified platform but I believe RT is the platform they want to unify on. Windows 8 can already run RT apps. If they enabled Windows Phone to run RT apps then it becomes the run-everywhere standard and suddenly Windows RT has new life. There will be a transition period as Windows Phone developers update their apps. This would make Windows Phone a bit more appealing. It also makes business sense as Android and iOS both share compatibility between their mobile and tablet binaries. Microsoft is the odd ball out, they decided to make their mainstream desktop OS compatible with their tablet OS and have isolated Windows RT to not run anything except RT apps. This was a horrible mistake IMO but one has to think there is some broader strategy there yet to be revealed.
          Jeremy Deats
          • Oh yeah, sure...

            Why on hell they should unify the platform on an horrible API that neither Office team was able to use to deploy a real application? It barely offers a Windows 1.0 user experience... why not unify win platforms on dhtml/active desktop then? It is widely supported 1998 tech!
            An API that by design get your stuff distributed only on MS Store (did you not see a LITTLE threat to competition with MS solutions here?)
      • What the XBox users are saying

        I don't use the XBox myself but my son and his friend do and their first review was very negative for one simple reason, they stated the Xbox 1 is incomparable with existing Xbox 360 games. For them this was a deal breaker and made the system undesirable for a 16 year old kid who could care less if W8 programs run on it. Seems like once again MS has the right direction but fails in the execution.
        • Remember Atari 5200

          You can't fire an arrow from a shotgun.
          You can't use cast iron skillets in microwave ovens.
          You can't play Super Nintendo games on Nintendo 64.
          You can't toast marshmallows in a toaster.
          You can't watch VHS tapes on a Blu-ray player.
          You can't screw a light bulb into a skylight.
          You can't run OS X apps on iPad.
          You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
          You can't play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One.

          You can't!

          But you can just keep using arrows.
  • If I could add my old Win32 games to this new XBox

    I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I'd be pounding the doors down to be the first in line to get it. And I would guess there are a whole lot of people out there who would feel the same way.

    If I could add only Modern/Metro apps, I might not get it in a heartbeat, but I'd give it careful consideration.
    Michael Kelly
    • Most Popular Maybe

      The most popular Windows 8 Store Apps/Games that lend themselves to Kinect/Controller usage will probably get invites. I see quite a few of the Microsoft ones are already there. People, etc...
    • Not to worry

      It has got an AMD CPU, and Hyper-V is running the show. Just wait for this thing to get in the hands of real programmers. You would be then able to run anything imaginable there.
      • Real programmers ?

        Ah forget why do I even bother.

        I would just like to point out it isn't the "normal" hyper-v as no vm would get direct access to the gpu in normal hyper-v, which I must assume is the case in this version of hyper-v.
      • Could Vs. Want

        Mom comes home with some spreadsheet work to do. Chases away the kids playing games. Tells the husband, ready to watch movies, to back off. Sits down and uses the XBox One to do work. Doing work, of course, being the tipping point reason she allowed them to get the device.

        Bonus feature: the kids and Dad make dinner and do cleaning with their new found lack of something to do.

        Finished laughing? Good.

        Any third party apps are going to be entertainment content related and targeted to the X-Box One as a method of licensing control by publishers/producers. Maybe, just maybe, photo editing software will be ported. Binary compatibility with RT or Win Desk is not going to be a selling point for the XBox One and I'd be surprised if they were thinking about Desktopping the game / entertainment center.
        • THANK YOU!

          Finally, someone who is thinking beyond "Is it possible?" Why would you ever want to work on an Xbox?
    • +1

      Ram U
  • What kind of processor is in the X-box One?

    What kind of processor is in the X-box One?
    • APU

      An 8-core 1.6GHz x64 based AMD APU.