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New Details About Microsoft's Streaming Service

Microsoft could get around backwards compatibility issues via its new streaming service

Recently leaked to Gamespot, a source close to Microsoft revealed that in secretive meetings last week Microsoft demonstrated Halo 4 being streamed to a Surface tablet at an impressive "Xbox level quality."

The service is called Rio, previously codenamed Ridgeway, and is relatively low latency as reported by blogger Paul Thurrott. "[L]atency was down to 45 milliseconds, which is probably OK for simple single-player gaming but is in fact pretty high for real-time multiplayer gaming," this is a bit of a shame. Perhaps it's still a work in progress. 

Several theories have been floating around as to what Microsoft plans to do with its new tech. One of the more plausible ideas is that it will be used to solve the lack of backwards compatibility between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Instead of playing the game on the console it would just be streamed from a Microsoft data center.

In fact, the Redwood tech giant outright suggested streaming as a possibility earlier this month. Senior Xbox director Albert Penello said

 "There are so many things that the servers can do. Using our Azure cloud servers, sometimes it's things like voice processing. It could be more complicated things like rendering full games like a Gaikai and delivering it to the box," 

Who knows what the future holds? We already stream so much, from movies and television on Netflix to music on Spotify, so why not games from the cloud? 

Well for starters, companies like Gaikai and OnLive have tried to do it before and failed miserably.

Why were they miserable flailures? Limited bandwidth was a big problem. Most people lacked internet connections that were fast enough in order to have an enjoyable experience with low latency. 

Unfortunately, it looks like Microsoft will face similar challenges, 45 milliseconds of latency, means it takes 45 miliseconds for input like a  button press to register onscreen. This is a long time relatively speaking and would render a lot of fast-paced games unplayable.

Rest In Peace Microsoft Rio, you were dead before you even hit the water. 

Published Sep. 30th 2013

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