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Could this be the last "outsourced" Xbox?
The next Xbox could have a lot more of Microsoft inside

Microsoft is no stranger to hardware. Its computer mice and keyboards have been among the best for over a decade, and now the company is trying to take the lead in communication devices such as headsets and Web cams.

While it would be ridiculous to compare Microsoft's hardware know-how with that of Dell, who manufactures or brands nearly anything PC-related, it would also be wrong to say that the software giant has no experience in producing and selling a PC. In fact, Microsoft made one of the most successful 'PCs' in recent memory with 30 million sold worldwide.

That's right, we're talking about the Xbox. Although the original Xbox was composed of mainly off-the-shelf parts, it demonstrated that Microsoft knew what it was doing. The Xbox 360 took it a step further with more custom components designed to Microsoft's specifications.

So then, what's the next step for Microsoft? Believe it or not, it could be in-house chip design.

The New York Times interviews industry veteran and Microsoft engineer Charles P. Thacker, who tells about joint-labs in Redmond and Silicon Valley tentatively named the Computer Architecture Group.

Thacker points to the Xbox as one of the main reasons for Microsoft's interest in bringing chip design in-house. The first Xbox sourced a Mobile Celeron 733 from Intel, which was adequate; and for the Xbox 360, Microsoft tapped IBM to produce a custom triple-core PowerPC CPU. Legend has it that AMD was the original choice for the original Xbox, but was outbid by Intel at the 11th hour. On the graphics side the equation, NVIDIA supplied a GeForce 3.5 of sorts for the first Xbox, and ATI put its Xenos "R500" into the Xbox 360. NVIDIA also supplied audio and networking technologies for Xbox.

Clearly, Microsoft relies heavily on outside help to produce its console product. While the specialized hardware makers have helped to create powerful machines, outsourcing exposes Microsoft to certain levels of instability and risk. A prime example would be NVIDIA's dispute, which eventually lead to arbitration, with Microsoft over a supply agreement for its Xbox chips. Microsoft's Computer Architecture Group may be an effort to reduce its reliance on other companies.

Thacker, who stepped into the Xbox 360 design team after a key engineer on the project became ill, says that Microsoft is looking at other technologies besides strictly gaming, such as voice recognition.

“Voice is big,” Mr. Thacker said to the New York Times. “You can throw as much technology at it as you want to.”

Another aim benefit of Microsoft designing its own chips is that it will have greater control over how its software and operating systems interact with the hardware. By overseeing both, Microsoft may be able to accomplish feats that a company like Intel, who now has to produce chips for Apple computers and software, cannot.

“We are at an inflection point in the industry,” he continued. “Our friends say computers are not going to get faster, we’re just going to get more of them.”

Instead of taking a traditional approach, Microsoft likely will look towards parallel processing, which is where most of the industry is currently pointed.

“This is a historic time in the computer industry,” the story quotes David A. Patterson, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re in the middle of a revolutionary change toward parallel computing that will absolutely involve both hardware and software.”

By utilizing a system designed by UC Berkeley, Computer Architecture Group can design and reconfigure chips without actually producing them, thus reducing a potential barrier to entry into chip design.

A possible starting point could be in-house design for chips in laser mice, Web cams, fingerprint readers, and other Microsoft-branded hardware.

But fear not, hardware loyalists! Even with this its new endeavor at Computer Architecture Group, Microsoft is far away from producing chips at the caliber of specialists Intel, IBM, NVIDIA and ATI. Then again, the next-generation of consoles isn't due for another four years. With the seemingly limitless resources available to Microsoft, it's entirely conceivable that the next Xbox, which is already in the planning stage, will have a whole more in-house inside.




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AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By EglsFly on 10/29/06, Rating: 0
By JonMooring on 10/29/2006 1:29:42 AM , Rating: 4
It was a list of manufacturers that Microsoft has used in the past for the previous XBox generations.


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By JackPack on 10/29/2006 1:06:07 AM , Rating: 5
Barton was embarrassing compared to Northwood.


By ADDAvenger on 10/29/2006 2:25:30 AM , Rating: 2
AMD had Intel beat until the P4Cs came out, then Intel had it for a little while until the K8 came out. At best it was a close race between the P4Bs and the late K7s.

But this is a side argument anyway


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By Samus on 10/29/2006 6:23:59 AM , Rating: 1
I'd take a P3 or Athlon XP over any P4. Period. Less heat, less noise, less power requirements.

Negligible speed difference.


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By SexyK on 10/29/06, Rating: -1
RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By leidegre on 10/29/2006 12:14:47 PM , Rating: 2
Not really. The P4 was okay, but compared to the AthlonXP it wasn't that much better. The big diffrence was that the P4 generally ran at double the clock speed than that of the AthlonXP ~1.8, P4 ~3.4, How do you think a P4 would compare to a AthlonXP clocked at the same speed!? The only real difference was computing intense stuff, which could benefit from the long P4 pipeline, e.g. 3D rendering.

Then again, power, heat, and noise matters to.


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By Etsp on 10/29/2006 2:30:10 PM , Rating: 3
Well, get your AthlonXP to run at 3.4 Ghz on air then you have a valid argument. The "Clocked at the same speed" argument is flawed because These Processors couldn't be clocked at the same speed and be fairly compared. P4's used an approach that allowed them to clock their CPU's quite high, while AMD took an approach to do more per cycle. That did not neccessarily mean that it was better in performance.


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By Russell on 10/29/2006 2:33:32 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand why people still need this explained to them...


RE: AMD missing from the "caliber of specialists"
By Aikouka on 10/30/2006 8:29:41 AM , Rating: 2
People will never learn the differences between clock speeds of processors and how they relate to their architecture. You can explain to them, "clock speeds are relevant to the longest execution time of a step in a pipeline" and they'd respond, "BIGGER IS BETTUR!"

In those days...
Intel: Larger Pipelines = More Stages = Lower Execution Times
AMD: Shorter Pipelines = Less Stages = Longer Execution Times

Sounds pretty obvious why the speed ratings were the way they were to me~


By encryptkeeper on 10/30/2006 10:07:58 AM , Rating: 3
I would rather deal with AM2 processors now than try and configure an Intel system. Every series of Intel processors needs a different chipset. 800 series, 900 series, Core 2, and the single core chips that end in 1? You're screwed if you want to try and find a chipset for that. But if you go with AM2, ANY AM2 board will work with it. Hell, even AM3 processors are supposed to work with AM2 boards. Now, Intel is gearing up for quad cores, which will need ANOTHER chipset. Believe me, all the tech advances are great, but I HATE configuring Intel systems.


By vanka on 10/30/2006 2:17:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Now, Intel is gearing up for quad cores, which will need ANOTHER chipset.

Which cave have you been living in the past few weeks? Most current motherboards that support Core 2 will support Intel's upcoming quad core. A BIOS update may be necessary, but otherwise the new quads will drop right in.

quote:
Every series of Intel processors needs a different chipset. 800 series, 900 series, Core 2, and the single core chips that end in 1?

Actually, most 775 chipsets (Intel's and Nvidia's) support the Core 2 cpus. The reason the motherboards with those chipsets don't all support the Core 2 is because they were wired with the Pentium 4/D's higher voltage requirements. That is why many board manufacturers just produced new revisions of their old 775 boards that support the Core 2's lower voltage requirements instead of creating new boards. Before spewing your hate and ignorance at least attempt to do some research.


By kkwst2 on 10/31/2006 5:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
I've been a big AMD user, but this agrument is frankly bull. I configured a Core 2 setup recently, but my previous three builds were AMD. My last was an A64 X2 I configured a year ago with the latest board - a 939-based board. Do I have an upgrade path now? Not really. I don't care, because usually when I upgrade I replace everything. For argument's sake...

My point it, AMD is now changing platforms and chipsets about as fast as Intel. And configuring it is no big mystery. I'm not sure how you can argue that AMD's Socket 754, 939, 940, AM2, Socket F, AM3 mess is less confusing or more future-proof. But that's just me.


Nvidia comment is backwards...
By Wolfpup on 10/29/2006 2:15:46 AM , Rating: 4
"A prime example would be NVIDIA's dispute, which eventually lead to arbitration, with Microsoft over a supply agreement for its Xbox chips."

Umm...isn't that backwards? My understanding is Microsoft didn't feel like paying what they had agreed to in their contract, so sued Nvidia to try to force them to sell their chips for less. Then they got pissy with Nvidia and shut them out of the Direct X 9 spec so their hardware wouldn't look as good.

That about sum it up? The way it's worded, it sounds like it was Nvidia doing something shady.




RE: Nvidia comment is backwards...
By Smurfer2 on 10/29/2006 9:53:44 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
My understanding is Microsoft didn't feel like paying what they had agreed to in their contract,


Almost... It wasn't that MS would not pay what they agreed to, but that the price of producing the chips became cheaper due to a smaller process nodes. MS did not negotiate this into the contract, so they sued Nvidia to reduce the price


RE: Nvidia comment is backwards...
By Russell on 10/29/2006 12:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
Which was entirely MS's fault for being so shortsighted.


RE: Nvidia comment is backwards...
By knitecrow on 10/29/2006 6:39:02 PM , Rating: 3
True. But no more so than Nvidia who destroyed their relationship with Microsoft and ensured ATI got future business.

ATI makes chips for two next gen consoles now.


RE: Nvidia comment is backwards...
By BigLan on 10/30/2006 9:57:32 AM , Rating: 2
Nvidia did get the nforce chipset out of the deal though, which was mainly funded by xbox R&D money. I'd say the chipset business has been rather kind to them over the last few years.

Nitpick: I thought the xbox1 had a geforce 2.5, not 3.5. it had some of the pixel shading hardware of the GF3, but wasn't a dx8.1 part.


Inflection point
By crystal clear on 10/30/2006 6:23:16 AM , Rating: 2
“We are at an inflection point in the industry,” he continued. “Our friends say computers are not going to get faster, we’re just going to get more of them.”

His interpretation is wrong-

We certainly will get faster/better/more powerful/
cheaper/energy efficient computers,for very demanding,
energy & envoiremently conscious users.

His phrase-we’re just going to get more of them.”

should be replaced by-WE ARE GOING TO GET MORE OUT OF THEM.

Thats what the buyer/users want -"to get MORE OUT THEIR COMPUTERS".

The emphasis is on QUALITY COMPUTING .




RE: Inflection point
By crystal clear on 10/30/2006 6:51:04 AM , Rating: 2
Add to the above-SAFETY or SECURITY with technologies built upon Intels TXT platforms.
Quote-

"According to Intel, every part of a TXT-enabled platform will have the technology built in so that every pathway that is traversed by data will be able to offer a high level of security. With TXT, Intel is taking a no-compromise approach to securing data. All components of a system will be protected:


Unquote-
Computers/computings should address the needs of the users.


RE: Inflection point
By crystal clear on 10/30/2006 6:55:03 AM , Rating: 2
Intel: Malicious Software and Viruses Can Be a Thing of the Past

Source-http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=4624




Compatibility issue again
By hstewarth on 10/30/2006 11:13:00 AM , Rating: 2
Hasn't Microsoft learned. XBox 360 hardware is not compatible with original XBox and now this new version will likely not be compatible with previous generations.

With how the CPU/GPU industry been shaking up and comfused lately with buyout of ATI by AMD and partnership between Intel and NVidia, no wondering Microsoft is thinking of going there own on it.

With there own CPU/GPU designed this means they can have compatibility in the chip designed from start. But that likely only means future generations of chip.

Time will only tell what happens. Just hope they improved on power requirements of unit.




RE: Compatibility issue again
By Trisped on 10/30/2006 4:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
Untill the PS2, no consoles were backwards compatible. The only gaming devices that were included Gameboy and PCs, and even then PCs had some problems when you switched out of DOS into 95/98 and out of 95/98 into 2k/XP.

The problem with compatibility on the 360 is because Microsoft decided it was "good enough." They had a good number of games, and everyone else that wanted to play other games probably had a XBox to play them on. With the increase of 360 titles there was a drop in interest, so only a few enthusiasts really care about backwards compatability.

I don't think the next XBox will be any more backwards compatable then the 360, but the one after that might be.


RE: Compatibility issue again
By Trisped on 10/30/2006 4:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
Untill the PS2, no consoles were backwards compatible. The only gaming devices that were included Gameboy and PCs, and even then PCs had some problems when you switched out of DOS into 95/98 and out of 95/98 into 2k/XP.

The problem with compatibility on the 360 is because Microsoft decided it was "good enough." They had a good number of games, and everyone else that wanted to play other games probably had a XBox to play them on. With the increase of 360 titles there was a drop in interest, so only a few enthusiasts really care about backwards compatability.

I don't think the next XBox will be any more backwards compatable then the 360, but the one after that might be.


Give me a break
By PandaBear on 10/31/2006 12:04:25 AM , Rating: 2
How can anyone said MS is doing hardware when every single piece of the hardware they use on Xbox is bought from others with some customization? The only thing they did is probably the controller and the case.

They are as "hardware" as any taiwanese generic asic house, like RealTek or CMedia, or not even that.




Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 10/28/06, Rating: -1
RE: Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 10/28/06, Rating: -1
RE: Same as their OS?
By Chrobis on 10/29/2006 12:12:40 AM , Rating: 4
Says the guy who types this from his windows based PC. If you don't like Microsoft don't buy their products, period.


RE: Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 10/29/06, Rating: -1
RE: Same as their OS?
By ZmaxDP on 10/29/2006 12:33:06 PM , Rating: 3
So, you have an illegal copy of MS do you?


RE: Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 11/2/2006 5:59:02 PM , Rating: 2
Given to me by a friend actually. He bought it for me because i happened to say "I wouldnt mind playing halo. Too bad id need Windows" so the retard bought me XP and Halo for my PC and i wasnt going to say no to free stuff.


RE: Same as their OS?
By regnez on 10/29/2006 12:46:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Hurray for MS adding to the terror that is Bill Gates Idiocy


are you kidding? you think that Bill Gates is responsible every time your Windows based pc crashes because you did something stupid to it?

PEBKAC.

in the article, it states that the hardware microsoft makes is among the best on the market, which is true. so if microsoft has more to do with the production of its own hardware, then how could this lead to anything other than a better product?


RE: Same as their OS?
By clayclws on 10/29/2006 6:11:12 AM , Rating: 2
Wow...you must be really bad at computing. My younger brother at 9 years old never met such problems. LOL!!!


RE: Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 10/29/06, Rating: -1
RE: Same as their OS?
By Griswold on 10/29/2006 12:35:22 PM , Rating: 1
Well, your awesome average comment rating of 1.22 surely is no dramatization - and now we know why.


RE: Same as their OS?
By thegrimreaper3 on 10/29/2006 11:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
its 1.16 now..


RE: Same as their OS?
By WhiteBoyFunk on 11/2/2006 1:58:18 PM , Rating: 1
I personally think his comments are entertaining which is a large part of the reason I am online in the first place. No, his words are not from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but they do offer some competent thoughts. Don't rate down all of his posts because you didn't like ONE of them.


RE: Same as their OS?
By Tsuwamono on 11/2/06, Rating: 0
RE: Same as their OS?
By Griswold on 11/4/2006 5:57:13 AM , Rating: 2
One? Give me a break. Theres plenty -1 stuff in this thread alone and for good reasons. Best example being the first one in the chain. Thats just pure trolling idiocy. And if he's serious about it, I'd have to call him an incompetent idiot who shouldnt touch a computer at all.


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