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Report: Microsoft’s Console Strategy Shift May Include Modular Hardware Add-Ons

by Mike Futter on Mar 01, 2016 at 10:28 AM

Earlier today, we reported on a presentation and an interview with Phil Spencer from an Xbox showcase last week. Spencer mentioned that the company’s Universal Windows approach was going to have positive impact for gamers, and that Microsoft may be rethinking its approach to the traditional console cycle.

We also heard that Microsoft will be adjusting its platform strategy. “We’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have the Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform,” he said.

This clearly points to the importance of backward compatibility and library longevity. However, Polygon and The Guardian are reporting that Microsoft said it is considering offering hardware upgrades along the lines of how PC owners can enhance capabilities one component at at time.

In speaking about iteration though, Spencer specifically points to how Sony is adding VR capability to PlayStation 4. It’s unclear what kinds of hardware upgrades Microsoft might add to the Xbox One or if that will even happen. Spencer declined to commit to a specific roadmap.

"Phil’s comments touched on his vision and is an example of the potential of the Universal Windows Platform," a Microsoft representative told us when we attempted to get clarification and confirmation. "We remain committed to console innovation and believe there will always be a need for gaming and entertainment on the big screen in the living room. We’re inspired by what the future holds but we have nothing to announce at this time."

Microsoft's equivocation leaves the matter in the air. The company refused to directly address the assertion about the modular console plans. When we followed-up asking for an up-or-down confirmation or denial, we were told that the company had nothing more to add. 

[Source: The GuardianPolygon]


Our Take
Our takeaway from Spencer’s statements was a bit different. It's not clear if "new hardware capability during a generation" means modular upgrades or faster hardware cycles to align to today's mobile-centric user base. Despite our efforts to get as clear a picture as possible, we were unable to either confirm or refute the assertion that incremental upgrades are under development or even serious consideration.