Long shot: Could the next Xbox be Intel-powered?

Kareem Anderson

Mark this one in the “only slightly” improbable column but if true, it could be a huge step in bridging Microsoft’s gaming efforts between consoles and PCs.


Tech industry analyst Richard Swinburne has ruffled some feathers with his bold prediction that Microsoft’s next Xbox console will be powered by an Intel chip rather than its traditional custom SoC architecture that’s been provided by AMD for previous  Xbox One consoles.

Upon Swinburne’s predictions, the Motley Fool publication ran with the idea and presented a column that suggests that if true, Microsoft’s move would be a boon for Intel. Indeed, it could further cement a shifting relationship between the two companies that has recently been a bit rocky as Microsoft announced Qualcomm-powered PCs, and Intel providing chips for competing OS-powered Chromebooks.

While it may seem like a one-sided deal in favor of the chip maker, a shift to an Intel-powered Xbox could have longer-term benefits for Microsoft that manifest in cheaper component bundles as Intel could provide WiFi chips, NAND Flash and the SoC as one package versus Microsoft’s current sourcing model. As Intel develops its 5G technology, Xbox consoles with Intel chips could provide gamers the bandwidth needed to stream their favorite 4k games over the Internet and further facilitate Microsoft’s dream of moving gaming components to more digital distribution solutions.

Another benefit for Microsoft comes in the form of studio development time. It’s no mystery that the current console generation has seen a robust number of exclusives land on PS4. While most games are developed on a PC and then target specific console architectures, development for Intel architecture would reduce the development time of games for studios as well as streamline the development process if Intel can also roll out a high-performance standalone graphics processor. The cross-platform development overlap between PC and Xbox may well be reduced if Intel were able to wrangle Microsoft away from AMD’s current clutches.

Project Scorpio

These are the plus sides to a rather rosy transition for the two companies, but there are several reasons this could also backfire or more realistically, not come to fruition, chief among them, Microsoft’s relationship with AMD. The Redmond giant would be taking a huge risk shifting development in the middle of its downhill console supremacy. Intel has also been a company plagued with chip delays that would affect the release dates for consoles that routinely land just in time for the holiday season or need to be demoed at E3.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Intel does not currently produce a high-end graphics processor which on a gaming platform is 50% of the battle. Without proof that Intel can produce a high-end graphics processor, Microsoft could be waiting a while until the chip maker can make something industry competitive.

These are all speculations and haven’t the slightest shred of credibility beyond Swinburne’s own. However, an Intel-powered Xbox would be one step closer to just a PC-based version of the Xbox software being run on a more powerful rig. It could be worth the effort for both Microsoft and Intel to explore the possibilities of Redmond’s recent console commodity strategy.