Speculating the Next Gen Operating Systems

Wow, 2013 almost feels like it’s already over. Time certainly flies. But as this year draws to a close, we are reminded that new consoles from Sony and Microsoft are likely to be arriving soon. There’s been a lot of talk about specs but that’s an endless conversation of technobabble. Instead, let’s talk user interface: operating systems. Dashboards! Nintendo has shown their hand here- The Wii U OS is an evolution of the Wii’s “channel” setup. But what will we see from the next Xbox and Playstation? Today, Laser Lemming investigates this very, very important question.

 The Next Playstation

At the start of the current generation, the PS3’s XMB interface was well received. Everything was easily accessible from one screen. No need to load up separate programs to change settings or check your friend’s list. Over time, however, the XMB’s accessibility has become it’s own enemy. It’s gotten slower. Much slower. The once-snappy XMB is now being bogged down by huge game catalogs, movies, TV shows, and large friends lists. It’s also now handling trophies, something Sony’s designers probably hadn’t anticipated. All of these things add up. The more digital content you’ve got on your PS3, the longer everything takes to load up.

PS3 XMB

This is especially true when accessing the XMB while playing a game. Content takes much longer to load than it does during the PS3 start-up. You may remember that the XMB wasn’t even originally accessible in-game early into the PS3’s life. Clearly Sony hadn’t anticipated certain wants of the people.

But the PS3 is over 6 years old now. Let’s talk PS4 interface.

One might think that the PS4 will simply offer up an evolution of the XMB. It’s possible, but not necessarily probable (but it might be!). The PSP adopted the XMB, the more recent Vita, however adopted an interface more touch-screen friendly. In all likelihood, Sony isn’t expecting us to go buy touchscreen monitors to use the PS4. Let’s simply look at the facts:

  • Sony really likes the XMB: they use it in a lot of their products. Sony-made Blu-Ray players currently sport the XMB. It’s fair to say that Sony wants a familiar OS that can be recognized across multiple pieces of hardware.
  • In order to make an XMB more effective on the PS4, Sony is going to need to allocate more resources towards their OS. This is the reason cross-game chat is possible on the Vita, but not the PS3.

If you really want an idea of a company’s mindset, you just need to look at the recent products. Current Blu-Ray players are rocking the XMB. There’s a good chance Sony wants to keep it Vita OSaround. However, the launch of a new console is also the perfect time to show off new interfaces. Sony’s new Playstation Store might also be a sign of the direction the company is heading in. We may be seeing an OS that’s more designed to seamlessly offer products from the Playstation Store, similar to what the Xbox 360 dashboard currently does. Such a decision is likely to leave some fans upset, however.

Large companies like Sony and Microsoft have a harder time keeping this sort of thing a surprise when they’ve got other products they’d like to cross-brand. It’s a fair guess to say that keeping an eye on upcoming Sony products will give you a good idea about the direction they intend to head.

Microsoft’s New Xbox

This one is interesting. Recently, a developer broke NDA and leaked major details regarding the next Xbox and the PS4. The source suggested that Microsoft and Sony are taking very different approaches when it comes to operating system resources. Out of the 8GB of supposed RAM in the next Xbox, a large chunk of it will be reserved for non-gameplay-related shenanigans. This, according to the source suggests it will be used for the OS and Kinect 2.0.

Let’s say Microsoft gives the next Xbox 4GB of RAM to use solely for the OS. What does this mean? Quite a bit, really.

Do you like Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Metro tiles? Do you like Xbox Live? Do you like ads?

Expect all of these things to have a major impact on the next Xbox’s dashboard. The current iteration of Xbox 360’s dashboard is a good place to look if you want an idea of where Microsoft is heading here. MS wants more Live integration/reliance, more Kinect-enabled features, and more Metro.

Windows 8 Metro Theme

Just how close will the next Xbox dashboard resemble Windows 8?

Make no mistake, Microsoft wants to own the living room and video games are just a small part of that. The company has invested quite a bit of their Xbox Live revenue towards securing exclusive access to apps and entertainment content. Expect more of this, but perhaps more fully integrated into the OS.

4GB of RAM means bigger, louder video ads can be streamed to you at all times- perhaps even when accessing the dashboard during a game. Hopefully it means that the dashboard loads up quickly every time. However, they are allocating all that memory to the OS for a reason: it’s going to be big.

The launch period of Kinect until now shows us the direction that the company is heading in. They spent half a billion dollars to market the Kinect launch. The next version of Kinect will likely play a big role for the new Xbox. A lot of that OS RAM will probably be used to decrease the notable lag time found in the current Kinect setup on the 360.

Both companies will be pulling up more resources for their next OS, but at this point, they seem to be heading in different directions. Microsoft seems to be jumping head first into creating a Live-reliant operating system meant to keep Microsoft products on your mind. Sony may be heading towards an evolved take on their current path.

Stay tuned for information as it develops.

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