Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
XBox (Games)

The Scoop on the Xbox 360's Embedded OS? 504

An anonymous reader writes "When the Xbox 360 was launched two weeks ago amid much brouhaha over its custom-designed IBM PowerPC-based CPU with 3 symmetrical cores running at 3.2GHz each, WindowsForDevices.com wondered aloud, 'What OS runs inside the Xbox 360?' Now, the website thinks it has found the answer to its question. No, it's not Linux or BSD, nor a derivative of Longhorn or Windows CE."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Scoop on the Xbox 360's Embedded OS?

Comments Filter:
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:17AM (#12634700) Homepage Journal
    It's Windows 2000. What a shock, who would've guessed, I'm so exci..... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by rovingeyes ( 575063 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:20AM (#12634751)
      I take it that you didn't even bother to RTFA. It says it has roots in windows 2000 but it is NOT windows 2000, a derivative may be but NOT windows 2000.
      • Re:Wow (Score:3, Funny)

        by NinjaFarmer ( 833539 )
        I take it that you didn't even bother to RTFA. It says it has roots in windows 2000 but it is NOT windows 2000, a derivative may be but NOT windows 2000.
        So why don't you just come out and say they are using windows XP?
      • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pilgrim23 ( 716938 )
        Roots? the machine is called "Xbox 360". 360? It would seem obvious that it should then run HASP. -and if you are unsure what this means then, you are young in the Force Luke...
      • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gl4ss ( 559668 )
        it's a derivate of the os that's in xbox 1.

        WHAT A SHOCK!

        redundant yes but the whole article is stupid in this regard - I didn't even know we were having wiiild speculations into what os it has - like it would never matter to the end user who never sees it.
    • Aparently, no one read this article... the Xbox1 runs an OS derived from Win2000... they have absolutly NO IDEA what it will be for 360; only speculation to a port of Longhorn.
  • by Nomihn0 ( 739701 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:18AM (#12634707)
    Will this compromise hackability?
    • by Jozer99 ( 693146 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:28AM (#12634865)
      What would you run on it? The XBox was cobbled together from basically off the shelf hardware. 4 years down the line, and we still haven't gotten everything working with Linux yet. The XBox 360 has NO OFF THE SHELF HARDWARE. You would need to reverse engineer the processor, graphics processor, RAM, filesystem, and system bus, not to mention audio, usb and IR controllers. I won't even go into the rights management system, which I imagine can only be stronger than on the original XBox (2048 bit encryption key needed to boot the XBox 1) Then you would have to write your own APIs and compilers for accessing said devices. I don't think the OS is the biggest problem in terms of hackability right now.
  • by Waltre ( 523056 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:18AM (#12634712) Homepage
  • by G27 Radio ( 78394 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:18AM (#12634714)
    What's next? Next thing you know Apple will start using Intel chips instead. Strange days. :)
  • PowerPC vs Intel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Virtual Karma ( 862416 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:19AM (#12634732) Homepage
    Apple (Mac OS X) runs on PowerPC chips from IBM. But now they are planning to Intel platform. PC (windows) runs on Intel platform, but XBox 360 uses PowerPC. My question is simple. WHY???
    • by rokzy ( 687636 )
      Apple is NOT going to use intel x86 processors.

      MS use PPC because it's better, in this case because of its lower heat output. they can do this because a console is designed mostly from scratch so components can be chosen on their qualities. with general computing, there's so much investment in x86 that a lot of people have to go with it whether its crap or not. just like many people have to go with Windows and Office even though they wouldn't consider touching it if they were working from a clean slate.
      • Re:PowerPC vs Intel (Score:5, Interesting)

        by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:53AM (#12635182) Journal
        On the other hand...

        OSX core is open source Darwin, which already runs on Intel processors. I would bet that deep inside Apple, they maintain a fully functional OSX on typical Wintel hardware (speculation only but why wouldn't Apple make the effort? Sort of a hedge against CPU lock-in).

        I think a more interesting line of speculation is: Is Apple developing, or thinking of developing, an OSX version for the new CELL processor? After all, IBM surely thinks that CELL will eventually replace conventional CPUs. IBM and Apple usually work pretty close together when it comes to future CPUs for Apple's OS. I can't imagine that Apple hasn't at least discussed it with IBM.
        • "I think a more interesting line of speculation is: Is Apple developing, or thinking of developing, an OSX version for the new CELL processor?"

          An even better question is "If the XBox 360 runs on a powerPC-like CPU, will MSFT start selling W2K for the G5?" that'd be a fine how-do-you-do. "Dear Steve, we're releasing a fully compatible 'Windows 2k5 for OS X'. It's a trick we learned from IBM. gg.--Love, Bill"
    • Re:PowerPC vs Intel (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      Consoles have had custom APIs, OSs and hardware for a long time, presumably to make a lean, optimum platform versus shoehorning a general purpose system. RISC chips have often had a lead in floating point performance as well. The chip itself is custom, so it could have a custom instruction set as well, they say it is PPC-based, not necessarily a PPC chip. It could be a stripped-down chip so they get the instruction set they need and throw out fancy stuff that slows down the chip.

      Also, one thing I've see
  • by SilentBob4 ( 805119 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:19AM (#12634736)
    How can they run an XBox on Windows 3.11?? I just don't get it... Will we be required to add TCP/IP on our own if we wish to play over the network?
    • How can they run an XBox on Windows 3.11?? I just don't get it... Will we be required to add TCP/IP on our own if we wish to play over the network?

      Perhaps they will have preinstalled Trumpet Winsock for us.
  • Launched? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dq5 studios ( 682179 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:20AM (#12634742) Homepage
    I can go buy it in stores? I think you mean debuted.
  • Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by PsychicX ( 866028 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:22AM (#12634770)
    All that fuss to say it's a simple derivative of NT, in its second generation of console-ness.

    That was certainly a surprise. Oh wait, no it wasn't.
  • by 1967mustangman ( 883255 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:22AM (#12634771)
    They are making the PowerPC for the Xbox and the Cell for the new Playstation. It seems like they will be the real winner in the next round of game wars.
  • What OS? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stecoop ( 759508 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:22AM (#12634781) Journal
    The OS any machine runs is become irrelevant. I want a base OS that can run virtual machines and whatever runs on top as a Virtual OS doesn't really really matter. Similar to how Mac and OSX runs but without any legacy core that can interfere. With MS, they have the Virtual Machine on top of Windows yet if they made the Virtual Machine the OS and the run windows or whatever that would be the best of both worlds. Don't like Windows great it will run Linux, Symbian, Palm whatever and who cares lets just get the Virtual Machine running. Hm Sounds like Sun needs to extend Java to run Virtual Machines rather than running on an OS and that could complete a Virtual Machine.
    • Re:What OS? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cowscows ( 103644 )
      Then go buy a computer. This is about a video games console.
    • Buy yourself an IBM Mainframe.
    • Re:What OS? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:41AM (#12635060) Journal
      The OS is rather irrelevant when you're talking about embedded systems or for that matter, any system which just does its designed tasks with little direct human interaction.

      That's why, as long as they keep on reading your ATM card and spitting out money properly, most people don't care a whole lot which OS their ATM machine runs.

      The only reason we really have "OS wars" today is because people have differing opinions on the way things should be presented on the screen to them as an interactive user of said OS. (And secondarily, technical debates on such things as security ... but let's be honest here. A lot of pretty darn important systems run on Windows, despite all the complaints about it being "insecure". There's a strong 3rd. party market happy to try to shore up those holes for a price - and plenty of customers willing to pay for those "improvements".)

      Most of the time, when someone expresses a strong preference for Mac OS X, they're really expressing a fondness for the overall look and feel of the GUI.... Perhaps they favor the drap and drop nature of everything, with file management being done by symbolic folders that automatically open up when you hold the mouse button down while pointing at one? Maybe OS X Tiger users just fell in love with the Dashboard widgets or the Spotlight search feature, or who knows?

      Same with any other OS I can think of. Even MS-DOS users argued for it because of it's stark simplicity. "Only one exact way to do a specific task... no confusion of "What does the picture on my screen do that looks like *this*?" Easy to write down a step-by-step instruction sheet so anyone who can type can get a task done in it.

      None of these things really matter on a system that nobody interfaces with directly very often. If it just serves up web pages or files or acts as a back-end to a database, or whatever ... as long as it keeps running, people don't care what it runs.
      • Re:What OS? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jens ( 85040 )
        The reason there are OS wars is that the operating system in todays hardware creates a huge dependancy regarding third party solutions. Imagine if you had to decide for a kitchen outfit. (ie. stove, cupboards, fridge, etc.). And once you decided for Bosch, Siemens, whatever, everything in your kitchen - from the blender to the towel - also had to be from Siemens (or third parties claiming to be "Siemens compatbile"), or it wouldn't work. Blender manufacturers would have to produce several versions of their
  • Faeries... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:25AM (#12634820) Homepage Journal
    My guess is faeries. They captured a whole mess of them and have chained them to tiny little switchboards in the machine. I was going to say leprachauns, but the extra gold they carry around would make the machines too heavy.
  • What a letdown! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saintp ( 595331 ) <(ude.nayelsewrben) (ta) (erreipts)> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:25AM (#12634835) Homepage
    I was hoping it'd be something incredible and barely believable, like OS X or BeOS or Plan 9. But no, it's just a derivative of the original XBox OS. Weak. All that suspense for almost nothing. This story is worse than the ending of Citizen Kane, when "Rosebud" turned out to be his sled.
  • Mac! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coop0030 ( 263345 )
    I was hoping that it would have been a derivative of Mac OS X. Now that would have been a story worth reading (if true).

    Could you imagine Microsoft getting in bed with Apple. ewww...
  • DevKits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenBenBen ( 249969 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:29AM (#12634879)
    Seeing how the DevKits were G5 boxes, wouldn't it be a good idea to look at the OS they were running?

    From a hackability POV, it's the BIOS that really matters. The original xbox had the BIOS hidden in the VGA chip (or was it the Southbridge? Can't remember) but once Bunnie Huang scoped the buses everything was lost. I think we can expect to see some fairly high grade encryption at work in both the POST and code signing arenas.
  • ...so here's the article text:

    When the Xbox 360 was launched two weeks ago amid much brouhaha over its custom-designed IBM PowerPC-based CPU with 3 symmetrical cores running at 3.2GHz each, WindowsForDevices.com wondered aloud, "What OS runs inside the Xbox 360?"

    We offered a few alternatives and called on our readers for their ideas on the subject. Now, we think we have the answer to our question.

    But first, a bit of background.

    As we stated in our previous story on this topic, the earlier Xbox (shown at
    • What I think is interesting is that original dev kits for XBox 360 were said to be bastardized and enhanced versions of Windows NT 4.0 running on a G5 box.

      Why anyone doesn't think that this is probably the case is beyond me. Why would I write an OS if I could use one that had a lot of what I needed? Strip down NT 4 and give it a nice overhaul to work with your sole hardware spec. Seems to make sense to me. I think the developer quoted probably felt the features of the XBox 360 OS were derivative of the
  • Coral Cache (Score:3, Informative)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:31AM (#12634912) Journal
    Site was dead for me, so Coral Link [nyud.net].
  • Whats the big deal? The console needs an OS, but it does not really matter which it has, since the game runs most of its own stuff, and the OS is used for relatively little compaired to a general purpose PC. So, the Xbox people had a choice. And since they DO WORK for Microsoft, why not use a kernel based on their OS? A modified NT kernel makes as much sense as a Linux or BSD kernel, and this way they do not have to buy expensive IDE kits and learn new stuff, they can use MS's inhouse expertese and soft
  • I ask this question with full sincerity: Are we going to see people writing malware for Xboxes? It's connected to the internet, and it's running Windows. What more could you possibly need? I could imagine that it probably doesn't support ports 80, 25, etc. but it could happen..

    -- n
  • i managed to get coral cache to load it before total failure :o)
    mirror [nyud.net]
  • by Lucractius ( 649116 ) <Lucractius@gmail.cTOKYOom minus city> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:36AM (#12634977) Journal
    As anyone with a passion for other and more esoteric platforms will (or should) know.

    Windows NT existed on a number of different architectures other than Intel x86, Including MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC, in versions 3.5 3.51 and 4.0.

    The final point to make is that when the work began on Windows 2000, the entire OS was done. The full NT5 beta available from the MSDN when it was released. Did indeed include a PowerPC version as well as the others. ( at least one beta did as far as i can confirm from my discourses with other "wisened veterans" (no mater what their age) of the MS oses. )

    The effort involved in MS porting the NT 5 kernel and other systems to the Xbox 360 would have been totaly comparable to the effort needed to strip and optimise the nt 5 core for the Xbox. Which is in fact a very impressive degree of refinement over the original os when you examine the finer details.

    ( My other boxes are FreeBSD and Solaris so dont dare call me a MS fan, XP is for my games only case wine isnt good enough and i pray it catches up sooner. )
    • I've got a copy of that beta somewhere in my MSDN library. I tossed it on one of our Alpha stations once when we were upgrading the engineering department. It ran very smoothly. I had a problem with trying to get drivers for my scsi adapter though and scraped it as the IT department webserver.
  • The obvious answer hasn't been mentioned yet: OS\360 (especially since it is running on an IBM processor).
  • "yesterday development company Factor 5 helped Sony fire another blow to Microsoft's camp by declaring allegiance to the Playstation 3. President Julian Eggebrecht told News.com that the Playstation 3 offered more processing power to more easily simulate the real world for a better game experience. The company had previously stated that it would work on the Xbox 360."

    No matter what hype they spin, developers have been grumbling about the Xbox 360 design from day one as the specs were released, and now dev'
  • "The original Xbox ran an OS that had its roots in Windows 2000. Granted, by the time you strip out everything that is not needed in a console like the Xbox and replace some of the parts with stuff specific to that device (like the file system), and add a few pieces, it hardly resembles anything remotely like Windows 2000 at all. "

    So, in other words, it runs DOS 5.1
  • by netglen ( 253539 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:40AM (#12635038)
    That's right, the OS is actually MS's old friend OS/2 WARP.
  • DUH. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by News for nerds ( 448130 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:40AM (#12635042) Homepage
    Who, except for /. crowd, expects Microsoft adopts Linux for one of their strategic pieces? Windows has the HAL that can absorb hardware differences, so there's no room for Linux and the like.
    • Re:DUH. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <john@princeofcups.com> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @01:04PM (#12636069) Homepage
      > Who, except for /. crowd, expects Microsoft adopts Linux for one of their strategic pieces?
      > Windows has the HAL that can absorb hardware differences, so there's no room for Linux and the
      > like.

      When the Mac came out in '84, M$ told the DOS heads that using their keyboard macros was so much faster than using a mouse that using the mouse and gui will never make it into mainstream business. They published statistics to prove it. Then Windows came out, and M$ told them how great the mouse and gui was, and they switched over in droves, their past biases completely removed from their memory banks.

      When the web started taking off in the early '90s, M$ told the faithful that the web was a waste of time. It was run by Universities and will never be applicable to the modern business world. Hell, you had to jump through hoops to even get windows running TCP/IP back then. Then M$ came out with IE, and told everyone that it is the business app of the future. All of the windows heads developed mass amnesia, and told us all how M$ runs the internet.

      History says that if M$ changed their stance and started pushing Linux, embrased and extended into proprietary hell, of course, then all the current Linux haters will tell you how great M$ Linux is, and forget they ever bashed it.

      M$s main power is brainwashing. They coddle the non-free-thinking masses and give them a sense of community in their M$ness. They will blindly follow whatever Redmond tells them, as long as they have Linux and Apple or whoever to despise. Hated is the easiest way to bind any community.

  • by Ranger ( 1783 )
    'What OS runs inside the Xbox 360?'

    All electronic computing devices run on smoke. Because once you let the smoke out, it quits working.
  • Say it with me:

    Norton Internet Security For XBOX....

    Guaranteed to drop your framerates by 75%

    Of course, it can second as a "game genie" effect by slowing the whole system down enough to make it boringly easy.


    How long until we've got 100,000 XBOX drones spamming and breaking into networks?
  • Excuse me, my dreamcast called, it's OS wants a few words with you guys.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:54AM (#12635202) Homepage Journal
    The original XBox ran NT Embedded using the NT5 kernel. The new XBox runs NT Embedded using the NT5 kernel. Why is this a surprise?

    It's Power PC? So? They had a Power PC NT kernel, for the CHRP motherboards, and most of the NT kernel is C and C++ and has to be portable at least to Alpha and Itanium, so building most of it for Power PC would be just a recompile. It's not like the software just vanished when the CHRP 'market' collapsed.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @11:57AM (#12635229) Journal
    Didn't MS and billg say that stripping down the OS like this was impossible due to integration issues in a court of law? Did someone mislead the court? Or am I mistaken?

    Anyway, this is just one more project branch to maintain. They now have Win2K, WinXP Home Edition, WinXP Pro, Win2003 server, WinCE and now another version for the XBox. For the server editions they need to support standard, enterprise and data center versions. And I think there is a version for the tablet PC, or is it just WinCE? No wonder MS wants cheaper code monkeys, keeping all the versions maintained and in synch has got to be a labor intensive nightmare.
    • Well, it is pretty hacked down - for instance, the last time I checked, the Xbox didn't support DLLs, and it only allows one process.

      Also, I don't think it runs IE at all. Could be wrong, though.

      I'm not sure how thrilled the average home user would be with this OS on their PC.
  • by _Pablo ( 126574 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @12:04PM (#12635304)
    First off, it was pretty obvious that MS were going to use existing code on the original XBOX, if only because it was to all intents and puropses a PC. So at the time MS had the choice between using a Win 9X codebase, a CE codebase or NT/2000 codebase.

    Windows 9X compatibility wasn't a requirement so could be ignored, CE was optimised for lower power CPUs and had been a less than a stellar success in the Dreamcast, whilst the NT/2000 codebase was optimised for higher end processors x86/PPC/MIPS/Alpha. It would seem that the choice was obvious. I dare say that MS stripped it down so that it's just the kernel of 2000 with thin wrappers of DirectX on top of the drivers together with a the minimum requirements of Win32 to keep DirectX and OpenGL running.

    If we jump ahead to now, it seems obvious that MS would carry on using the same platform - just this time using the PPC branch of 2000, build new drivers and probably add more Win32 stuff to support the XNA architecture. If anything it seems unthinkable that they would use anything but an NT kernel.

    I would be more interested to know if Win360 (I know this is Slashdot and Microsoft is only interesting when it's monopolising the cure for cancer etc - but just allow me to wonder a moment!) supports .NET or Avalon.
  • vaXbox (Score:3, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @01:52PM (#12636612) Homepage Journal
    It's Xbox360, which was Xbox, which was Windows 2000, which was Windows NT, which was... VMS [windowsitpro.com]. How many VAXMIPS does the X360 run? And where's my DCL interpreter?
  • MacOSX (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ryanw ( 131814 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:39PM (#12638351)
    I just want to know how long will it take an XBox 360 to get MacOSX running on it. That would be a ton better than a mac mini.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.