Today's announcement of the Xbox One has seen a decidedly mixed reaction, but also offered hints at the key roles some of Microsoft's more enterprise technologies will play on the console/entertainment device/potential doorstop. Here's what we know so far.
Public details around the underlying software for Xbox One are relatively sparse. Let's face it, details generally are sparse: there's no official release date, no word on how technologies like live TV and sports deals will work outside the US. It seems likely a lot more detail in these areas will emerge at Microsoft's Build conference in late June, which is also when we'll find out more about Windows 8.1.
As that overlap suggests, Microsoft's long-stated ambition to unify development across all its platforms seems to be slowly coming to fruition. From the comments made in the keynote and a handful of interviews Microsoft has given to other media, this is what we can deduce.
Hyper-V hypervisor technology plays a key role in enabling the Xbox One's multi-tasking environment, which lets you switch between the main running game and background apps such as Skype. The Xbox One isn't running standard Hyper-V, but the core technology has been utilised to allow two simultaneous instances running in the same partition.
Developers will be able to utilise Windows Azure as a resource when building titles for Xbox. (This is separate to the existing online capabilities that can be accessed via Xbox Live.) The intention appears to be performing computationally intensive offline processing (leaving only latency-critical tasks on the console) well as using Azure for additional data storage, however. The latter is a possible scenario for the storage of media by individual Xbox owners, though it may well sit under the SkyDrive banner.
If you're a developer with a hidden hankering to build for Xbox, most of this is relatively good news: many of the skills you already have will be applicable in this new environment. The shift to a Metro-like interface across all platforms also makes porting simpler. We'll be interested to learn more come June.