Dan Gardiner ruminates on Microsoft's new Xbox 360 videogame console.
We must admit that when we first heard rumours that the Xbox 360 was going to use a three-core 3.2GHz processor, we were a little sceptical. Given that dual-core CPUs are only just starting to hit the PC scene, it'd be something of an achievement for Microsoft and IBM (which has been charged with developing the PowerPC-based Xbox 360 CPU) to incorporate a three-core CPU into a videogame console.
On May 12, they officially announced the systems specs, and lo and behold the developers have somehow managed to do it - and they've thrown in wireless controllers. 512MB of GDDR3 and a custom ATI graphics chip to boot. In short, it's a veritable hardware fiesta, but it's a fairly specialised one. Unlike the original Xbox, the guts of the 360 bear little resemblance to what's inside the PCs that sit on most of our desktops (unless you own a PowerPC-based Mac that is, and even then the link is a tenuous one at best).
Of course, the question on a lot of people's minds is likely to be, has Microsoft learned from its mistakes? The original Xbox has become a hacker's dream, thanks to the hardware's similarity to a standard desktop PC. Its security features were pretty rapidly unlocked, and its capabilities exploited to do things like make it function as an 'entertainment bridge' capable of streaming audio and video from your PC to your lounge room. People even figured out how to run Linux on it. Of course, doing any of this voids the warranty. Nevertheless, a dedicated community of hardware and software hackers has sprung up around the Xbox in much the same way the open source community largely revolves around Linux.
Microsoft has made moves in the entertainment bridge direction with the original Xbox, which can act as an 'extended by streaming content from a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC. But ironically, this feature was only added long after hackers had 'unlocked' this capability themselves. The Xbox 360 will act as an extender out of the box. and it's clear that Microsoft has much broader plans than videogames for this new machine.
At least initially though, its customised hardware is unlikely to make it a favourite among hardware hacking enthusiasts. Then again, they say many hands make light work ... and the console hacking community has already had a lot of practise on the original Xbox.
' Arstechnica.com posted part2 of their very detailed and technical Xbox 360 hardware article '
Part I of this series covered Microsoft's vision for dynamic content creation in the next generation of console games. The XBox 360's procedural synthesis techniques were explained, and a general overview of the multicore PowerPC CPU that powers the new console was given. In the present article, we'll zoom in for a closer look at this CPU, codenamed Xenon. We'll cover the design of its individual parts, and we'll talk about how each part fits with the vision outlined in Part I. Check out this great, but very technical - you've been warned, article on arstechnica.com
Has Play delivered Microsoft's top secret launch strategy?
The first indication of what Microsoft's price and delivery strategy for Europe appears to have been unveiled on online e-tailer Play.com.
In the first online product listing for the Xbox 360, Play.com states that the unit will set you back a quite staggering £399 and be available from November 29 of this year.
' A new survey published by Famitsu has found out what next-generation console Japanese gamers are most interested in '
The survey found that 42.2% of Japanese gamers are most interested in the Nintendo Revoluton, with the PlayStation 3 coming in close behind with 39.8% of Japanese gamers being most interested in Sony's next-generation console. Only 18.0% of Japanese gamers said they were most interested in Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Speaking to TheStreet.com, Allard said that he was "not sure" about the final price point, with a decision on pricing still "probably about two months away" - but confirmed that the price would "be in the neighbourhood" of the $300 price tag of Xbox at launch.