3 April 2002 Microsoft’s plans for its Xbox 2 games console may presage an audacious bid to take more control over the design and manufacturer of PC hardware, according to reports.
According to IT news site the Inquirer, Microsoft is planning to use Xbox2 as a Trojan horse to take more control over graphics, sound and microprocessor chip design, tying more of its software technology to its proprietary chipsets and thereby locking out competitors.
Central to this is its DirectX9/10 ‘microcode engine’. DirectX is Microsoft’s graphics acceleration software, used by Windows-based games – and the Xbox games machine – to provide fast and detailed graphics that can make the most of a PC’s microprocessor and graphics card.
Making its own microprocessor would undoubtedly be a far more ambitious undertaking for Microsoft and would bring it into conflict with both Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and chip giant Intel.
However, the theory is that the software company could use the new microprocessor in Xbox 2. And, if Microsoft had a powerful enough processor of its own, compatible with the current Xbox and which can run the Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) at top speed, it will be able to command a dominant position in the market for CPUs.
MSIL is the language into which code written in a multiplicity of languages is compiled into in order to be run in Microsoft’s .Net environment. It is broadly equivalent to Java byte code.
The next step would be for Microsoft to begin introducing patented technology for the kind of processors that the Windows operating system requires. The software giant would then be able to license these patents to chip makers such as Intel and AMD – and they would have little choice but to do so.
A shortcut, for Microsoft, would be to acquire chipmaker Transmeta, which has the right “code morphing” technology, but is mired in financial difficulties.
However, the claims about Microsoft’s hardware ambitions are highly speculative and the result of much industry conjecture.