In an unexpected revelation that casts doubts on the future of Microsoft DirectX, Microsoft today announced a new gaming software-development platform dubbed XNA. Stating only that DirectX, which used to provide this functionality for software developers, would continue as the "baseline environment" for Windows and the Xbox, Microsoft representatives said that XNA will be the platform going forward for game development on Windows, the Xbox, and, now, Windows Mobile-based devices.
"Software will be the single most important force in digital entertainment over the next decade," Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said. "XNA underscores Microsoft's commitment to the game industry and our desire to work with partners to take the industry to the next level."
Microsoft executives Robert J. Bach, senior vice president and chief Xbox officer, Games Division, and J Allard, corporate vice president, Xbox Platform, will unveil details about XNA today during a keynote address at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2004 in San Jose, California. For now, the odd announcement--without any details--about XNA's existence just raises questions.
At GDC 2004, Microsoft is also expected to announce plans for its Xbox video game console. The company will give Windows developers Xbox Live development tools for functionality such as billing, security, logon, friends, and matchmaking so that they can create Xbox Live-like online communities for their PC-based games. Microsoft will also announce a common hand-controller reference design for PCs, Xboxes, and other devices. I'll provide more details about XNA as they emerge.