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Opinion: Can Xbox Live and Windows 8 Work Together?

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 42 comments

Microsoft may not be aggressive enough about Xbox Live for Windows 8.

If you have read my columns before, it should be no secret I am not quite convinced Windows 8 will be a slam dunk for Microsoft. I don’t believe the touch interface will make sense for most computers sold next year. According to Gartner and IDC, 400-million PCs are forecast to be sold next year, with more than half of those expected to be notebooks. I find it hard to believe many users will enjoy using one hand to move Windows tiles around the screen while their other hand holds the display to prevent it from wobbling back and forth.

One particular feature I like about Windows 8 is Microsoft’s decision to bring the Xbox Live interface to Windows. But, I have to admit I am confused about the functionality, so far, and somewhat concerned Microsoft could miss the mark similar to how it did on Windows Phone. Are my expectations too great, or could Microsoft do more?

Experience

One Windows 8 coverage issue I find largely missed is how Microsoft fundamentally changed Windows development. If you listen closely to those Windows 8 presentations, you will notice how Microsoft focuses on the user experience first and technology second. To clarify, this means Microsoft is bending technology around the user experience. All previous Windows versions were focused on incorporating new technology and then building the user experience around it. This shift in Windows 8 development is a big deal.

If we consider the touch interface as a given, then the Xbox Live Metro App in Windows 8 is a good example of Microsoft’s goals. What we saw at the Build conference was an app designed just like the "light" Xbox Live interface. Its key design goals were to make the interface user-friendly and deliver plenty of reasons to use the app on a daily basis. Using the app, you can interact with your friends, see what games they’re playing and review your achievements. It's all about "the social", Microsoft said. But I would hope that social is not Microsoft’s primary focus for the Xbox Live app.

I am wondering; do we really want such an app on the PC? If its purpose is integration, then sure we do. It's certainly nice to be able to check on what your Xbox Live friends are up to while on a PC. However, I would argue that while "social" is nice to have, it’s not a critical feature. I have been waiting for a must-have feature of the Metro app, but I’ve yet to see it.

Alternative Experience

Perhaps because I consider Xbox Live an entertainment interface I just don't see it as a social interface. While the content isn’t in place yet, Microsoft said games, music, movies and TV shows will be coming to this Metro app. That means it’s too early to make any judgments, so I’m not going to complain too much about it.

Xbox is a passionate brand within Microsoft that’s capable of moving mountains. However, I was surprised Microsoft didn’t put any Xbox Live (Metro) content in the spotlight at its Build conference. I would have liked to see how Microsoft imagines certain games to be played on different platforms addressed by Windows 8, which ranges from low-performing tablets to powerful PCs. Sure, a touch game on a tablet may be fun, but how much fun is the same game when played on a touch PC with a vertical screen? You may be able to play a casual tablet game on your PC, but it won't deliver the same experience and it may not be much fun.

In the same way, a complex FPS will be nearly impossible to control on a touch screen. Bridging the gap between multiple types of games, game genres and multiple device types with different types of input will be quite a challenge for Microsoft–a challenge that boils down to one question: Where does Metro and touch make sense? I haven't seen an answer to that yet and have some doubts that this can work out in the way we would expect. Xbox Live could, in fact, be trimmed down to a social tool with rudimentary access to (gaming) content until we figure out what the PC of the future looks like.

The Question

I am not part of Microsoft's Windows 8 team, so judging the impact of Xbox Live for Windows 8 in this article would be very premature. I am pretty sure even Microsoft is still figuring out the "experience" that this app needs to deliver to represent the Xbox brand inside Windows. What I know, however, is that we have a good number of gamers in our readership. I'd like to pick your brain. What if you were in charge of this app? What would be the single most important feature you would be focusing on to deliver a certain experience? What experience would that be? Touch? Voice? The good old gamepad?

Is social integration more important than content? What about the cross-platform integration with Windows Phone and the console?

Comment away. I will be running an update to this article with the best contributions from you guys.

Discuss
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  • 9 Hide
    BlackHawk91 , September 30, 2011 8:22 PM
    Opinion: Can Pc gamers and x-box 360 gamers co-exit under the same platform?
  • -7 Hide
    aaron88_7 , September 30, 2011 8:25 PM
    Quote:
    I don’t believe the touch interface will make sense for most computers sold next year.

    Has it been confirmed that Windows 8 is going to be sold on desktop PCs? I'm still under the assumption Windows 8, (which is really just Windows 7 + a touch screen interface), is intended solely for tablets and/or laptops with touch screens. It seems to make more sense to sell tablets and laptops that have touch screens with Windows 8, and all non touch interfaced PC's such as desktops with Windows 7.

    I sure as hell have no interest in fingerprinting the crap out of my desktop monitor. I'm so OCD against fingerprints that I haven't once touched the screen of my Samsung 23" LED monitor since I bought it last year.
  • 6 Hide
    wikiwikiwhat , September 30, 2011 8:29 PM
    BlackHawk91Opinion: Can Pc gamers and x-box 360 gamers co-exit under the same platform?


    So I can't coexist with myself? I mean, I play both and am going to own BF3 in both PC and 360. 360 is my sports channel to gaming and PC is more my RTS channel to gaming.
  • -3 Hide
    someguynamedmatt , September 30, 2011 8:36 PM
    Fundamentally changing a successful product like Windows 7 is a bad idea. Yes, it could be a success. It could also be a complete and utter failure.

    Instead of trying to reshape Windows as a whole, why not build on what we already have, instead? Everyone loves Windows 7. At least that's what I'm seeing. So why are we deviating away from what we know is a success? Improve on the foundation you already have instead of adding gimmicks that you're not sure will even work.

    I know already I won't be buying Windows 8, just because I don't have any problems whatsoever with Windows 7. It's easy, fast, sleek, and functional... and maybe that's exactly why Microsoft is doing this. They know people won't want to upgrade and so feel they need to change something in order for people to feel it's a useful investment. And that's just not the right way to look at it - changing things for no good reason is NEVER a good idea.

    At this point, it appears as if they've run out of worthwhile improvements and are just trying to release something as soon as possible to get a new product on the market. That is exactly why it's going to fail.

    Just my $0.02 for what it's worth.
    -Matt
  • 1 Hide
    suture , September 30, 2011 8:40 PM
    Well, as said a zillion times before ppl can still use keyboard and mouse to use the interface (and turn it off btw)
    The real question is: Can we finally use a gamepad to play some console exclusive games in win8?
    Maybe the future its a "steamlike" (in this case xboxlive cross platform with really good console/pc/mobile games?
    I dont mean ALL the games should be played crossplatform in the same servers (ex: fps)
    But and the other games? beat'em'ups, platforms, rpg's etc why not? that would be awesome!
  • 0 Hide
    zankuto , September 30, 2011 8:49 PM
    wikiwikiwhatSo I can't coexist with myself? I mean, I play both and am going to own BF3 in both PC and 360. 360 is my sports channel to gaming and PC is more my RTS channel to gaming.

    I think he is referring to cross-platform gaming not just simply being in the same community. Last time microsoft tried this experiment PC gamers' mice whipped the 360s gamers' controllers so bad they discontinued the idea.
  • 3 Hide
    jonainpdx , September 30, 2011 9:07 PM
    I heard they are leaving Win 8 with DX11. If so, why bother upgrading to Windows 8?

    They should just make a Windows 7.5 as an upgrade. People and businesses are still stuck in XP. They are making the change cycle to fast. Windows 7 still feels fresh to me.
  • 1 Hide
    11796pcs , September 30, 2011 9:09 PM
    aaron88_7Has it been confirmed that Windows 8 is going to be sold on desktop PCs? I'm still under the assumption Windows 8, (which is really just Windows 7 + a touch screen interface), is intended solely for tablets and/or laptops with touch screens. It seems to make more sense to sell tablets and laptops that have touch screens with Windows 8, and all non touch interfaced PC's such as desktops with Windows 7. I sure as hell have no interest in fingerprinting the crap out of my desktop monitor. I'm so OCD against fingerprints that I haven't once touched the screen of my Samsung 23" LED monitor since I bought it last year.

    8 will have the ability to mount .iso images. Tell me how many times you've had to do that with a tablet. Windows 8 will definitely be released for the PC- but its focus will be tablets. Frankly I think Microsoft is running out of ideas for new features to be added to their OSes. Besides new APIs (everyone loves those) and optimizing their code further there really isn't anything else you can do to Windows besides make it run on more platforms.
  • 2 Hide
    malphas , September 30, 2011 9:18 PM
    aaron88_7Has it been confirmed that Windows 8 is going to be sold on desktop PCs? I'm still under the assumption Windows 8, (which is really just Windows 7 + a touch screen interface), is intended solely for tablets and/or laptops with touch screens.

    It's been confirmed from day one it's intended for desktops as well as tablets/laptops. The Metro UI can be disabled.
  • 0 Hide
    malphas , September 30, 2011 9:21 PM
    someguynamedmattFundamentally changing a successful product like Windows 7 is a bad idea. Yes, it could be a success. It could also be a complete and utter failure. Instead of trying to reshape Windows as a whole, why not build on what we already have, instead? Everyone loves Windows 7. At least that's what I'm seeing. So why are we deviating away from what we know is a success? Improve on the foundation you already have instead of adding gimmicks that you're not sure will even work.I know already I won't be buying Windows 8, just because I don't have any problems whatsoever with Windows 7. It's easy, fast, sleek, and functional... and maybe that's exactly why Microsoft is doing this. They know people won't want to upgrade and so feel they need to change something in order for people to feel it's a useful investment. And that's just not the right way to look at it - changing things for no good reason is NEVER a good idea. At this point, it appears as if they've run out of worthwhile improvements and are just trying to release something as soon as possible to get a new product on the market. That is exactly why it's going to fail.Just my $0.02 for what it's worth.-Matt

    Everyone said the exact same things about XP. Microsoft can't afford to just stand still for the sake of people that are afraid of change.
  • 7 Hide
    mattmock , September 30, 2011 9:46 PM
    Microsoft is missing the point, pc gamers don't want the xbox live experience as much as they want the xbox 360 games. Pushing the windows platform while choosing not to publish their AAA games on the PC is just schizophrenic.
  • 1 Hide
    upgrade_1977 , September 30, 2011 10:03 PM
    I think wolfgang was hired to stir up a lil controversy on tomshardware. Controversy is great for getting people to comment on the articles and draw people in because people always like to argue.

    As with what everyone else is saying about metro... It can be turned off. I don't see it as being a primarily used on desktops.

    What would be great is if they made an LCD or OLED touchscreen designed to sit on a desk like a keyboard. I think metro would be great as a secondary control interface. Think Nintendo DS style. Could even design it to tilt on an angle, so that you could place it between the main screen and the keyboard and mouse. I could think of many uses for it.

    As far as the XBOX live. At first I wasn't to keen on it, but the idea is starting to grow on me, as many of my games (even some steam games) use the windows live client. I heard you will actually be able to play Xbox 360 (xbox 720?) games on it. So if thats true, I think it's a good idea. Not only will it allow cross platform gaming (which should have been out years ago with "games for windows") but it will also slowly draw customers from the console to the pc. Which I think is great as the more people play PC gaming, the more developers are likely to take PC serious and stop porting garbage. Also, hopefully they will integrate the wireless xbox 360 controller drivers into windows so I don't have to download them anymore.

    I'm actually looking forward to windows 8. If I don't like it when it's released, and can always go back to windows 7 ultimate. Been working flawlessly anyways since I put it on my pc.

    One thing I would like in windows 8 would be the ability to back up the whole computer, programs and all, onto a small flashdrive or something. Doesn't have to save "Everything" on the flashdrive. Give windows the ability to save games, apps, ver. and settings, and when you do a restore, have it download all the apps, drivers, ect. for you, like steam or ninite does, then apply your settings and save files, ect, pics. BUT PLEASE, NO SYNCING LIKE ITUNES, what a pain in the arse, how come they cant have drag and drop?

    Anyways, sorry bout the rant..
  • 2 Hide
    nahuelcutrera , September 30, 2011 10:18 PM
    MattMock got it right we want xbox games on pc, we don't want xbox live experience, plain and simple
  • -2 Hide
    badaxe2 , September 30, 2011 10:30 PM
    Touch-screen and Xbawks. What is Microsoft turning into.
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , September 30, 2011 10:55 PM
    I've tested win8, and they have a layer which looks like your average win7/vista desktop. In other words, you're not letting go of the desktop background.

    My only complaint would be that you can't disable the themes!
    The installation screen and icon screen look ugly in the ugly green, and in desktop-mode you're forced with a win7/8/vista theme!

    I prefer the classic looks of win 98/2k/ME!
  • -1 Hide
    manitoublack , September 30, 2011 11:04 PM
    I'm installing the Alpha later today. Until then:

    No Comment ;) 
  • 3 Hide
    edwinjr , September 30, 2011 11:34 PM
    I installed build 8102,
    it has faster boot time than windows 7 and more responsive explorer
    about touch screen interface, you can disable it, very easy.
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , September 30, 2011 11:44 PM
    What would be cool, is if you could control your XBOX 360 (or whatever system comes next) with your computer, thus effectively turning a 360 game into a PC game.
  • 3 Hide
    shin0bi272 , October 1, 2011 12:07 AM
    Quote:
    Can Xbox Live and Windows 8 Work Together?

    Not if I have to pay for it
  • 0 Hide
    someguynamedmatt , October 1, 2011 12:26 AM
    malphasEveryone said the exact same things about XP. Microsoft can't afford to just stand still for the sake of people that are afraid of change.

    Harsh, but... well... you're right. *sigh*

    I guess having been around since the beginning, it just hurts me to see Windows steering away from the feel I've come to know. Windows 95 is my home, honestly... WinXP improved on that while keeping the same feel, and Win7 pushed it further. Yet in essence, it feels the same. Yes, there have been changes to this and changes to that, but it's Windows at heart.

    Once you push something like Metro into the market, it changes all of that. It's like going from Windows 3.1 to 95. Yes, I know you can revert to something similar to Win7, but that's not the point. The point is that Microsoft is transitioning away from the Windows I've known and loved from the start. I'm just afraid that when Windows 10 rolls around, it'll be like Android with Windows tacked on. And 11 will completely take away that option.

    I guess my time of sitting happily by my desktop running Windows 95 has passed. Sorry for the short-sightedness of someone who doesn't want it to fade away.

    God, that just made me really sad...
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