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Dave Cutler moves to the Xbox: What he brings to the job

Dave Cutler, the father of Windows NT, has moved to Microsoft's Xbox team. But what, exactly, might he have planned for his new job?

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Microsoft's Dave Cutler is a legend in Redmond. And now he's taking on a new position, focusing efforts on improving the Xbox.

That's the word from Mary-Jo Foley at CNET sister site ZDNet, who spoke with Microsoft about the move. The software giant told Foley that Cutler is "currently working on projects that will help advance our goals in the consumer space as we continue to grow the Xbox from a game-centric console to a complete home entertainment device."

Cutler made his name long ago as the father of Windows NT. After working on the Windows side, Cutler moved to the cloud to help Microsoft develop its Azure platform. According to Foley, a source told her that Azure is "basically 'done'," so Cutler was looking for someplace else to turn his attentions.

At first glance, it might seem odd that a person who has worked on Windows and the cloud would want to take on Xbox development, but further inspection reveals it might be an ideal match.

Microsoft has made it abundantly clear that it wants the Xbox to be about more than just gaming. The company now offers a wide range of entertainment applications, has inked several deals with television providers to offer both live programming and video-on-demand content, and has designs on making its Kinect motion-gaming peripheral a key component in its future in the living room.

In order to make the Xbox a more well-rounded living room solution, however, the software needs to be improved. And the software running on the Xbox is, as Foley points out, "loosely built on NT," making the marriage between the Xbox and Cutler an ideal one. After all, who knows the platform better than its father?

Cutler's cloud experience might also come in handy. Across the gaming industry, the emerging trend of cloud-based gaming services, like OnLive and Gaikai, and downloadable content might eventually force console makers to rethink their traditional business models. Electronic Arts, another company that's bullish on direct-to-consumer digital-download services, believes the day will eventually come when consumers stop buying discs.

"There will come a day where I think that people will stop going into [U.K. game retailer] Game and GameStop," EA Sports vice president Andrew Wilson told Eurogamer in an interview last year. "And I use those purely as examples of retail. It's important for retailers and us to understand what the consumer wants in the future."

With Cutler's help, Microsoft could go a long way in improving the cloud services surrounding the Xbox. The company has downloadable content now, and programming is streamed to the device, but it's still a fledgling exercise for Microsoft. In the coming years, especially with the possibility of a new Xbox launching next year or in 2014, offering better software and cloud services in the console could be Cutler's charge.

But what do the insiders say? Citing a source with knowledge of his job, Foley says Cutler's new role is centered on getting the Xbox to be more than just a gaming platform. Unfortunately, the source didn't divulge any more details beyond that.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on Cutler's new role on the Xbox team.