As OnLive has shown, streaming high-quality PC and console games to desktops, tablets and smartphones isn't a service of the future, but technology we have right now. Microsoft has shown that it's already taking advantage of this technology with the upcoming Xbox One, and now it looks like the Redmond company may be taking its "Services" dedication more seriously than previous thought.
Sources claim that Microsoft recently demonstrated Halo 4, which is currently only offered on the Xbox 360, streaming to a Windows Phone device and a Windows PC. This demo was supposedly shown during an internal meeting on Friday, and reportedly ran extremely smooth on both form factors. The latency on the Lumia 520 has also reportedly been reduced to just 45ms to cut down on any noticeable lag.
The sources said this Halo 4 streaming demo was a "prototype", so don't expect to see a dedicated streaming service anytime soon. We're already aware that the company is currently pushing to get Windows 8.1 out on the market, followed by the Xbox One and the Spring 2014 update for Windows Phone. Quite a few things are expected to happen next spring, including a possible Surface Mini/Xbox appearance, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the launch of a streaming games service in that window (or E3 2014 launch).
The move is obviously Microsoft's answer to Sony's Gaikai purchase and the PlayStation company's plans to stream older PlayStation games to the new console and PS Vita. A Sony exec even recently admitted that the company is looking to stream PlayStation games outside the Sony hardware fold including desktops, smartphones and tablets. Naturally Microsoft has no plans to be left behind (unlike Nintendo).
Microsoft's streaming service would answer the Xbox One's backwards compatibility issue given that older games won't be compatible on the new AMD-based hardware. Microsoft's senior director of Xbox Albert Penello already confirmed that Windows Azure is capable of this, saying that Microsoft's cloud platform can be used for "more complicated things like rendering full games like Gaikai and delivering it to the box."
Windows Azure is the company's cloud application platform spread out across Microsoft's global network of managed datacenters. This solution provides both Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service, and supports a number of different programming languages. Azure is one of several backbones in the IT industry, providing a strong foundation for a possible Xbox streaming service financed by Microsoft's popular Enterprise solutions.
"We just have to figure out how, over time, how much does that cost to deliver, how good is the experience," Panello said back in June during E3 2013. Based on Friday's supposed demo, looks like Microsoft is on the road to discovery.