Microsoft's Universal App Initiative to Unite Windows 10 and Xbox

PC and Xbox One gamers will be able to share the same gaming experiences when Windows 10 is released this year.


Xbox and Windows users are poised to share more app and gaming experiences than has been previously possible.

During Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, this week, Microsoft touted the potential benefits of its Universal App initiative to users of Windows-based mobile devices. In essence, developers can deliver consistent app experiences across Windows 10 PCs, tablets and smartphones.

At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, also taking place this week, the company shared more details on some of the technologies, including the Windows Universal App platform, that game makers can leverage to unify the Microsoft Xbox One and Windows PC communities. Or at least get them to compete with one another in virtual battlefields.

"Windows 10 brings together one core operating system, one application platform, one gaming social network, one store, and one ingestion path across all Windows PCs, Tablets, Phones and Xbox One consoles—that's more than 1.5 billion people," wrote Will Tuttle, Xbox Wire editor in chief, in a roundup of Microsoft's announcements at GDC. The company kicked off the far-reaching initiative, which stretches from tiny Internet of things (IoT) devices to full-featured PCs, at last year's Build 2014 developer conference with the release of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2.

"It will be easier than it has ever been to bring content to PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox consoles, and future Windows 10 devices like Microsoft HoloLens," Tuttle added, reflecting his company's efforts to streamline the process of coding for multiple device classes. "Developers will be able to do this and more when Windows 10 is available this year."

Developers will also have an easier time publishing their wares to the Windows Store app marketplace, courtesy of the Universal Development Center. The portal "provides fast, lightweight game submission and update capabilities within the developer's direct control, as well as access to key metrics to understand their game's performance," he said.

Graphics quality will go up a big notch thanks to the arrival of DirectX 12, the company's long-awaited update to its multimedia application programming interfaces (APIs). "DirectX 12 enables PC developers to have a new level of power and control and is a single API developers can access across Windows devices," said Tuttle. Fable Legends, an upcoming game based on Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, received a 20 percent performance boost with DirectX 12, he reported.

Game developers can start setting their sights on Microsoft HoloLens, the company's Windows 10-powered, gesture-enabled virtual/augmented reality headset, Tuttle said. The company plans on releasing HoloLens APIs via its Windows Insider early-access program. "While there are going to be many uses and industries that take advantage of Microsoft HoloLens and everything that holographic computing has to offer, gaming is a huge opportunity."

The project was dealt a blow last week, however, with a car crash on Feb. 28 that claimed the life of Mike Ey, a 30-year-old HoloLens designer at Microsoft. According to a report from Seattle's KIRO TV, Ey was killed when his car was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver going in excess of 100 miles per hour. The driver, identified as 21-year-old Robert Malsch, was arrested in connection with the crash and has been charged with vehicular homicide, felony hit and run, and reckless driving, according to this Seattle Times report.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...