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Microsoft's New Xbox One Experience missed a crucial chance to kill Steam Machines

Brad Chacos | Nov. 13, 2015
Windows is under assault like it’s never been before, and Microsoft just missed a crucial chance to use its sweeping Windows 10-powered New Xbox One Experience update to cut a powerful new competitor off at the knees.

Xbox One controller

Windows is under assault like it’s never been before, and Microsoft just missed a crucial chance to use its sweeping Windows 10-powered New Xbox One Experience update to cut a powerful new competitor off at the knees.

From the rise of mobile technology to the tremendous slowing of PC performance increases to Apple’s Mac surge, Windows has been looking wobbly for five years or more. What’s worse (for Microsoft), the titanic mistake dubbed Windows 8 sparked a mutiny of sorts inside the PC industry itself, inspiring Valve—the company behind Steam—and over a dozen PC makers to gamble on Steam Machines: radically small PCs, powered by the Linux-based SteamOS, designed both to usurp Windows’ iron-fisted control over PC gaming and to drag PC gaming into the living room.

After a long delay, the first wave of Steam Machines launched this week, alongside Valve’s radical Steam Controller and Steam Link. Make no mistake about it: The appearance of a gaming-focused, Linux-based threat to Windows, backed by the largest and most beloved company in PC gaming, is nothing short of a major threat for Windows. We found our initial week in a Steam-powered living room nothing short of intoxicating.

zotac steam machine
Zotac’s tiny Steam Machine, next to Valve’s Steam Controller.

But Steam Machines are far from perfect, as my World Beyond Windows colleague Chris Hoffman will detail. In a nutshell, because they’re full-blown gaming PCs in their own right, Steam Machines cost as much as or more than an Xbox One—but they’re still stuck running Steam for Linux’s limited game library. In order to play your full catalog of Windows-centric Steam games, you have to stream those games from your Windows gaming PC to your Steam Machine using Valve’s slick Steam in-home streaming feature (which the $50 Steam Link basically asks as a conduit for.)

It’s a glaring potential pain point. This is where Microsoft could have struck with its New Xbox One Experience—but it failed to do so.

Leaning on its shared Windows 10 core, the Xbox One’s NXOE lets you stream your Xbox games to any Windows 10 device in your house. Critically, however, it fails to do the reverse. You can’t stream PC games from your Windows 10 system to your TV via the Xbox One, despite the fact that Steam in-home streaming and Nvidia’s GameStream technology already offer that very feature.

shieldpcgames
Nvidia’s GameStream technology already allows GeForce-equipped PCs to stream games to TVs via Nvidia’s Shield devices.

 

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