A few days ago, we learned that a group called ‘H4LT’ had leaked the November 2014 Xbox One SDK including the accompanying development tools, device firmware and its documentation. While this may be a blow for Microsoft as it could result in homebrew titles being developed for the console, it does provide some interesting insight into the performance improvements it brings to the table.
Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 include a custom AMD 8-core CPU (APU actually) based on the chip-maker's 'Jaguar' architecture. However, both Microsoft and Sony have only made six cores available to developers with the other two being reserved for the OS that runs in the background. Microsoft has since changed that and made access to the seventh core available to developers.
While access to the seventh core may bring performance improvements in games and may explain why games such as Assassins Creed Unity and GTA 5 run smoother on the Xbox One compared to the PS4, it does comes with a few compromises. Game-specific voice commands for example will be disabled and Kinect’s infrared and depth cameras will not be available to a game utilizing seven cores. Even then, using system voice commands such as “Xbox, record that” results in a 50% utilization spike of the seventh core, making scheduling tasks difficult for developers.
Additionally, the SDK provides information on the development history of the consoles programming environment, dating all the way back when Microsoft produced prototypes of the Xbox One in April 2012. It also includes details on the rapid development of the consoles GPU driver and the similarities of the consoles OS to Windows 8, paving the way for the expected upgrade to Windows 10 which will run on everything from the internet of things, consoles, tablets, desktops and more.
“Once the SDK is out, people who have knowledge or has in the past reversed files related to the Windows (8) operating system should definitely have a go at reversing some files in there. Why? Well, the Xbox One is practically a stripped Windows 8 device and has introduced a new package format that hasn't had much attention. This format is responsible for updating the console and storing applications (Games are under the category of 'Applications' on the Xbox One) and is a modification of Virtual Hard Disks. There is no definite 'exploit' but from what we have studied and tested, this simple Packaging format could possibly lead us to creating Homebrew applications for the Xbox One.” - @notHALT via TheTechGame
We’re certain that as time passes and further study is conducted on the leaked SDK, more hidden gems will be unveiled. We’ll keep you updated when we learn more.