Microsoft game chief Phil Spencer on openness, HoloLens, and Xbox 1.5

We were part of a small group of journalists who interviewed Spencer after the Build keynote speech on Wednesday. We pressed Spencer for details, asked him about games on HoloLens, and queried about whether an “Xbox 1.5” might be in the works to respond to Sony’s rumored PlayStation 4.5. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

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1024d ago Replies(5)
freshslicepizza1024d ago (Edited 1024d ago )

1. cortana will improve voice commands and search functions dramatically on the xbox one.

2. windows 10 is indeed open, you can sideload apps and they are not trying to lock out windows apps ir prevent steamworks or other storefronts.

3. you have to submit to microsoft apps/ games ect. but you do not have to sell them through the windows store, once again detailing windows 10 is open. but they will put their own first party exclusive on windows, why wouldn't they? he also explains why it has to go through microsoft, they don't want content to get through like some mario game that is against intellectual property owned by nintendo for example.

4. mods will not be easy because of performance issues and the way the app framework is. they want to be able to use mods but they also need to protect the consumer because mods can hide phishing tools and so forth that can capture passwords. some may not like this restriction but imagine the headaches out there if they let anything pass.

5. hololens is still really early and it may take years before it's ready for mainstream.

6. they don't want to put every game on windows and xbox because some games are best on a console and some are best on the pc. they will never force players to play against keyboard and mouse players either who are at a disadvantage. but he also wants options out there and suggested games like destiny (which is not on pc yet) where you could play pc gamers and console gamers together. that discretion would be left to the developer.

7. cross play on various platforms is their new direction, even including mobile.

8. every xbox one is a development kit and he expects tons of apps to be built and they already have a ton of [email protected] games being made.

9. big update in may to improve windows 10 pc game features sold through windows store that people have been asking like g-sync. feedback is heard and listened to. all one has to do is see the results on the xbox one updates. same will happen with the pc side of gaming.

10. some really big news and not in this article is microsoft is allowing unbuntu (linux) to windows 10. so do people still think it won't be an open platform?

as we can see phil is the right man for the job moving forward and microsoft is not the same company they used to be that so many still have a hate on for. they changed and for the better, not let's see if people here are willing to change and be open or are they going to continue the same agenda?

slate911024d ago

Well said. Unfortunately I believe the hate will continue until the next generation of consoles rolls out though. The xbox one just has such a bad history attached to it. They have done an excellent job in weathering the storm though.

ha8eraid1024d ago

Yes I like the openness of the Windows 10 app. I do have a question though I wonder can u launch virtual machines on the Xbox One it does have an hypervisor built in u can run multiple OS through virtual machines since they are allowing unbuntu and Mac OS.

donthate1024d ago


The Xbox One does have a very optimized version of what most would call a hypervisor so you run VM's, but it isn't open and isn't like a traditional VM.

It isn't a traditional PC Windows OS. Maybe someone can get it to work on UWA?

Maybe not the full scale Ubuntu, but a stripped down version of Ubuntu Server or something for 1GB of RAM?

UnholyLight1024d ago

Agreed. They've done a really great job "weathering the storm" still selling well, but the reputation thing has seemingly cast the Xbox One as destined to be #2, regardless of whether it's an amazing system or not. I have both PS4 and Xbox One and I gotta say both systems are amazing, it's not like the Xbox One is subpar or something. It's a PR thing and the fact that they were taken all wrong in the early Xbox One days.

rainslacker1023d ago

Hypervisor is fairly generic, and not much optimization is really required. All it does is facilitate the transfer of data between different Virtual Machines really, and keeps them isolated from one another to prevent memory/processing issues. Basically, it acts as an OS layer on top of the VM's OS layers.

However, it isn't open, thus one could not use them for different instances of Machines.

It's pretty much a given that MS isn't going to allow any form of Linux to run on the Xbox. MS isn't going to support that, as it takes away from Windows, and to them, the Xbox isn't mean to be a general purpose computer.

It's also pretty much a given that people will never be given access to the hypervisor, and more specifically that 3rd OS which handles the 2 main OS's on the Xbox, as that opens a whole can of worms to allow for piracy or circumventing all the other protections that exist on consoles.

Keep in mind, the bread and butter of consoles is the software, and MS gains practically nothing by allowing Linux. If they wanted to allow server support, they could just make their own X1 version of it with their server software.

I know a lot of people say that XBox is Windows 10 now, but Xbox is still a closed off device, and will be treated as such. The only programs you'll see on it will be certified by MS through their compliance standards, and compliance standards strictly prohibit messing with the hypervisor.

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Lennoxb631024d ago (Edited 1024d ago )

The hate will continue even if MS hits all the marks and gives people everything they want. Simply cause they want to remain "cool" for the internet.

Everyone knows how you are chastised for actually liking MS. So expect a lot of undercover fans since no one will admit it.

1023d ago
TheCommentator1023d ago (Edited 1023d ago )

A couple of things I found to be very interesting:

Phil says late in the interview that if you look at DX adoption in any given generation, it takes at least a year, sometimes two, before you see full implementation of all the new features and for them to be used well. That's because the early games that come out suffer through the learning curve of figuring all of the new technology out. In these early stages, most devs are simply porting the previous API and trying to work around that as they figure out how to code for the new one. That, according to Phil, is how it's always been when launching a new API.

Besides that interesting bit of info, the interview was full of answers to many of the nagging questions about why the UWP is in it's current state and what MS is doing to make it function like developers and consumers would like it to(See Moldybread's outline, post #2). He even mentions XB1 as an analog to how they intend to approach making the UWP better over time.

I found it to be a fascinating read and recommend that anybody with any concerns over what's happening within the XB1 or PC ecosystems read it.

rainslacker1023d ago

The lack of adoption is historically due to the fact that the mass market was still on prior iterations of Windows, and MS typically didn't make DX available except for it's most recent Windows release, which for a while have had much slower adoption rates because people found it pointless to update. This is MS fault more than anything, because there was absolutely no reason for it...even DX12, since DX doesn't rely on the Windows kernel to operate.

There isn't a huge learning curve between DX iterations. There is more of one this time due to some of the low level implementations, but otherwise, the base functions have remained pretty consistent....with new one's being added. The whole point of DX was to alleviate the learning curve by having a standard coding practice, and making the rendering pipeline transparent to the developer...thus taking hardware out of the equation. This hasn't changed at all in almost 10 years, although it was changed for DX12 with great results.

While I'm usually cool with what Phil says, that first paragraph is just complete BS. The reason it wasn't supported is because games were made for the mass market, and the mass market typically didn't have the most current version of DX, which again, is MS fault. However, this time around, it would appear Win10 is gaining faster acceptance(according to a Steam Survey), likely due to being a free upgrade for the majority of it's not going to take 1-2 years before the mass market has the current iteration of DX. However, since developers didn't know if this would be the case last year, it ends up having the same result.

TheCommentator1023d ago

Your point of view makes a lot of sense when you put it that way. I'm curious about the timeline associated with DX12 updates like FL12.1 and Shader Model 6 being put out in the fall though; statements like that from the GDC presentation seem to suggest that MS doesn't have DX12 running thw way they would like at the moment. I know that DX12 will continue to evolve anyways, but I had assumed that when it launched in October, that FL12.1 was already supported in the API.

Anyways, I appreciate hearing what you have to say about this stuff because it peels away the layers of PR and exposes the fundamentals most peeple won't talk about.

rainslacker1023d ago

From what I understand, some features of FL12 weren't finalized yet when it came to hardware support, so the full set was delayed in order to insure that it was done right. I know some features are already available though.

DX12 is a bit more fluid than it used to be, and while I'm sure major iterations will still happen, we'll see more things where major features are added as a work in progress. Not unlike how MS plans to go with Windows in the future, where the release version won't matter as much.

SaveFerris1023d ago

If the rumours of an XB1.5 or PS4.5 turn out to be true, both MS and SONY are probably cautious for quite a few reasons. Neither wants to jump the gun too early and neither wants to end up with the 'weaker' upgraded console tag. Also, there is the NX to consider as well. What if the NX has higher specs than both the XB1 and PS4? Would those companies feel the need to launch an upgrade just to keep up?

Lennoxb631023d ago

I was wondering this as well. If NX runs games; first party and third party, betterthan the X1 and PS4, would that force Sony and MS' hand?

IMO it may. I don't see either giving up too much of a hardware advantage. If its a slight performance bump it won't. If its head over heels more powerful it will.

2v11023d ago

All the fanboys hoping for something to happen to ps4 ,no wonder there are rumors of a xbox1.5.The rumor started on Ms camp but since we all know is bad for the usebase the ms fanboys trying to say Sony is the one with the ps4.5
We all know a ps4 slim is coming how different from a original ps4 is for debate still there won't be a upgraded model that will spilt the usebase, only ps5 will do that.

rainslacker1023d ago

I've actually seen very few Sony supporters hoping there will be a PS4K. I've seen more the Xbox supporters hoping there will be a PS4K, and by extension I assume they'd be cool with a X1.5.

When MS first said something about this, there were only a few people I recall actually thinking it would be a good thing, and now the topic is just getting stupid because it has too much assumption based on it, and I feel most people aren't really looking at the bigger picture beyond the number of pixels on screen, and how many frames per second they will be able to not see.

Apocalypse Shadow1023d ago

I've noticed this as well. The ones leading the charge of this being okay are moldy bread, rookie monster, don't hate, etc. Pretty interesting if you ask me.

PlayStation gamers don't want it. But they are pushing the doubt and confusion and the agenda is to slow PS4 sales without having a confirmed, official statement from Sony that this exists for PlayStation or Xbox.

Gamers don't need fragmentation, they don't need higher prices for minor improvements and they don't need higher prices for games.

But let them run with it. They don't have anything else to look forward to.

rainslacker1023d ago (Edited 1023d ago )

What I feel is going to happen if this isn't a real thing, is that once Sony says they aren't doing this, the articles are going to pour in about how Sony is wrong for not doing this, and how MS is now forward thinking because they are the first to broach this subject. The Xbox supporters will likely follow this as well...and if MS actually does something, well, at least we can't call them hypocritical this time. Can still call them other things I guess.

There is of course the possibility that the articles flowing in will just shift focus to MS, since at least they have a named source which lends weight to the speculation, so the media can ride this hit train for a bit longer.

I am curious why many of these Xbox supporters aren't mentioning that MS was first to bat with the idea. I mean, Sony always copies MS right? Seems they'd be pushing that before a new PS4K, as that would be pretty typical of them on other topics. It really defies logic. MS asks the question, Spencer follows up about a month later, Xbox supporters don't tout how great it would be for Xbox. Yet go on at length at how great it would be for PS....despite never really ever giving Sony credit for anything in the past. In that vein, I'll give credit to hvd in many of these articles. He's at least a good MS fan boy who actually knows how to remain loyal.

gangsta_red1021d ago

I haven't seen too many Xbox supporters wanting PS4 to do this. I don't know where you are getting this idea from. What would be the point?

What I have seen are Sony fans split down the middle about this very idea. I find it hilarious that you and shadow would even try and point the finger at Xbox fans and create some sort of craxy X-files conspiracy theory even if you seen some comments from people that may lean towards the Xbox side.

Could it be that it's because that's all you two ever look for when leaving comments?

We have already gotten numerous articles about upgradeable consoles and how it was wrong to do this when Phil first mentioned this for Xbox long before the rumor was associated with Sony.

I could have even swore I saw you and Shadow comment in those articles too. So I find it strange that you are stating some sort of one sided bias from a fanbase now that the rumors for a PS4.k are now more prevalent.

rainslacker1021d ago

point is, when it comes to the people who seem excited about this, it appears to be more Xbox fans. However, I will concede there aren't that many Xbox fans excited about it, nor were they when the question was first posed, and the first assumptions were made.

I have seen a few PS fans OK with the idea, some OK with certain implementations, and the rest either against it, or thinking it's not anything at all.

"We have already gotten numerous articles about upgradeable consoles and how it was wrong to do this when Phil first mentioned this for Xbox long before the rumor was associated with Sony."

I know, which is why it's odd that the vast majority of articles are associating this only with Sony. MS got some criticism for it when they first started the question, but after 3-4 days it was almost all about Sony, and everything went full on stupid with the assumptions and fanboyism.

Yes, I posted in the Xbox articles. My first reaction was of curious intrigue. However, when thinking on it more I realized that it likely wasn't going to be a good thing, and have always said it would depend on the implementation.

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