Xbox engineer lead: "Who cares about a couple of hundred million PCs anymore? This is about billions of phones.” | PCGamesN

Xbox engineer lead: "Who cares about a couple of hundred million PCs anymore? This is about billions of phones.”

boyd multerer

“Mobile phones drive the research of CPUs, there's no question about it,” Boyd Multerer, a founder and lead engineer of Xbox Live and the Xbox One, said in his talk at Develop yesterday. Processor developers like Intel and ARM have prioritised their mobile projects because “the market is phones. Who cares about a couple of hundred million PCs anymore? This is about billions of phones.”

When the focus was on desktop processors it was all about making faster processors. Now, Multerer explains, it’s about cutting power use: “If they can lower the amount of power use of that instruction by a little bit, that gives them a competitive edge against other chips. [...] The phone industry says I can have 16 CPUs so that when you want to run a complicated app I can go into high power mode and I'll have all of them working at the same time and work really fast. As soon as that app goes to the background, 14 of those CPUs get turned off and sit there drawing zero power while the next app is in front.”

Multerer also thinks this trend is here to stay. While the focus may shift away from power-efficiency, Multerer says “it's not going to happen in the next ten years.”

While this focus on mobile doesn’t lend itself to PC, it has led to improvements that affect PC gaming.

Speaking to us after his talk, Multerer says that “the effort into having lower power performance on mobile is absolutely benefitting us on the servers.” It’s all down to the costs. The overheads for data centres are the hardware, the rental on the space and bandwidth, but all of those are a fraction of the ongoing cost of power and cooling. “That's why Facebook put a data centre in the northern part of Norway,” Multerer explains, “because to cool it they just have to open the windows and the roof and it's cold.”

So all these advances in power-efficiency mean that servers can run more cheaply, scaling their power to the demand from players. Multerer admits that this “leaves the desktop PC as the confused, kind of forgotten platform.” The physical size of a desktop is “limiting,” he says. “The more you can take off those desktop PCs and put it on servers, [the more] you're getting power efficiencies” but there are some things that you want to keep running on your own computer to reduce lag.

Multerer points out that with programs like Photoshop, companies like Adobe “have done the work to get it running across all the cores and getting them all going at 100%, so they've seen the benefit.” Whereas a lot of other developers, particularly in game development, haven’t done the work to make full use of multi-core processors and so we don't see the benefits of the hardware.

With additional reporting by Julian Benson.

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Dave James avatarThatThereTim avatarTsunamiWombat avatarDr0s4n avatarJac Atax avatar
Dave James Avatar
11 Months ago

Looking at Intel, they haven't designed 'desktop processors' in years. They've got two design schools, one for mobile, aimed at creating low-power, high-efficiency cores, and another focused on high-performance, multi-threaded grunt work in the server space.

The actual desktop chips we get in our gaming rigs are an offshoot of either one of those design principles; they haven't been an industry focus for a long time.

ThatThereTim Avatar
11 Months ago

Multerer is not wrong.

Dave James Avatar
11 Months ago

Although Intel aren't doing anything in phones. They spent most of the last decade being 'six months away' from having a phone chip that will be widely picked up, as they kept saying at every IDF I've been to, but never actually managed it.

For Intel, realistically, mobile means laptop.

TsunamiWombat Avatar
11 Months ago

Kind of a clickbait article title. It insinuates phones are all microsoft cares about, when this engineer is saying (correctly) that mobile phones drives CPU research. Well of course they bloody do, they're the next frontier of miniaturization and power management.

Jac Atax Avatar
11 Months ago

I'm glad AMD care about the couple of hundred million PC's

Dr0s4n Avatar
11 Months ago

This is Microsoft, its strategy is obvious, demean the PC as Platform, so that attention turns to Xbox and Windows Phone! The same as it said a decade ago, that PC Gaming was DEAD. Microsoft supposedly claims to be supporting the PC, with GamePlayAnywere, when in fact its intention is to take a good part of the billions of players who play on the PC to go play also in the dead Xbox One. Xbox One in almost 5 years does not even have a base Of 30 Million Units Sold. Just look, the prebuild PC market in crisis, annually sells 300 million new PCs, it seems a joke compare it to Xbox One in 5 years not sold 30 million units. Microsoft after the departure of Bill Gates, sought at all costs to kill PC Gaming, focused on bringing them to Xbox One, something she failed, but still did not give up doing, CEO of Epic Games warned about this!

Funny, the value of PC Gaming today is $ 35bn, while the Xbox is even worth $ 7bn, so Sony and Microsoft are copying absolutely everything they can from the PC because they know their markets are going to hole!

The most hilarious thing about it, is to see PC Gaming Websites, which should be collaborating with the platform, creating news to inform us about new technologies and games, including daily reviews of hundreds PC games release every month, and after sending them to Metacritic, GameRankings and others, They prefer to dedicate our space to talk about PlayStation and Xbox. Take look on Metacritic, and see that in one month, in the more than 300 Titles that PC received, only 5 or 10 received analysis!

Go there to see if Sony left the DEV talks about PC, NO IT DONT, what do they do ? It imposes on the contract a restriction for anyone of studio talk about PC (giving the impression that they are exclusive games), as we see in the recent statement of Sean Murray of NMS!

Here we do not want to know about Polystation, Shitbox and other consoles, we are here to know, read and inform us about PC, Exclusively on PC!