OS X on the Xbox 360: the future of Windows?

Unless you have problems with short-term memory, you’ll probably recall our story from yesterday where I discussed some of the comments that analysts have been making lately about the future of the Windows platform. If you didn’t read the article, here’s the gist of it: “Everyone is expecting new Windows head Steven Sinofsky to shake things up at the Windows team and if he’s wise, he’ll give Windows the massive overhaul that it sorely needs.”

Well, looks like I’m not the only one who thinks some major changes are needed in Redmond. In his ZDnet blog, Managing L’unix, Paul Murphy issues a pretty scathing critique of Microsoft and its reliance on the x86 platform: “Microsoft is absolutely hobbled by backwards compatibility; and not so much in their code, as in their culture. Basically they’re crippled by their own internal processes: having successfully evolved their development machine into an x86 ghetto by combining hiring and promotion selectivity with organizational structures that work against innovation.” Microsoft isn’t the only one who Murphy finds guilty–he takes Intel to task as well, for allowing the x86 architecture to stagnate: “If that’s the anvil, the sledge–Intel’s inability to advance the x86 architecture–is coming down fast. Right now they’re significantly behind SPARC and PPC on both performance and power use–and that’s only going to get worse.”

So what’s the answer? Murphy thinks it’s the PowerPC architecture–you know, the one that Microsoft uses in the Xbox 360 gaming console. According to Murphy, Microsoft realizes that x86 will only become more of a liability as time goes on. For that reason they’ve decided to completely transition development to a PPC-based platform–starting with the Xbox in your living room. An intriguing and perhaps plausible idea, if not for the fact that Microsoft has proven itself less than capable of taking full advantage of the PowerPC architecture, as evidenced by the Xbox 360.

So what’s the solution? Murphy’s suggestion might surprise you (that is, if you haven’t read the headline)–he seems to think that Microsoft’s problems for both the Xbox and Windows could be solved by licensing OS X from Apple. “Well, suppose Microsoft recognizes the obvious: the X360 is the fastest Macintosh money can buy–good graphics, six concurrent threads, three cores, Altivec onboard, 3.2Ghz–and just buys a MacOS X co-development deal for it?” At this point, we can all hear the chorus of Mac fanboys in the distance yelling “Never!” In fact, they’re probably the same folks who were up in arms over the Intel “rumors” not too long ago. Would Apple really license OS X to the evil empire? Wouldn’t that run contrary to the company’s modus operandi? Murphy seems to think that Apple, or Apple shareholders rather, wouldn’t be able to say no to such a deal: “With MacTel, however, an Apple decision to license ‘Leopard’ to Microsoft for co-development and deployment only on PPC just uses Microsoft’s money to extend Apple’s short term market, and Apple’s board couldn’t possibly turn it down without triggering significant shareholder action.”

Could it really happen? Would Microsoft ever license a competing operating system? Could Apple ever give away their beloved OS? It’s a pretty outlandish scenario, I’ll admit. But then again, stranger things have happened.

For more on a Mac fan’s worst nightmare:
– see Paul Murphy’s blog entry at ZDnet

More stories about Hardware News   Software News   Microsoft Windows   Mac OS X   Microsoft   Intel  


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