Microsoft has again showed off its standalone HD DVD player
for the XBOX 360. Whereas Sony decided to include its Blu-ray drive as standard equipment on
the PlayStation 3, Microsoft decided not to force HD DVD on customers and
instead provides it as an option. For those that choose to pursue that option,
word on the street is that it will come in at around $200.
While some consumers may scoff at a $200 add-on for the XBOX 360, one must consider that set top HD DVD players are retailing for $430
to $500 while Blu-ray players cost anywhere from $840
to $1,000. For those that have an XBOX 360 and want to add high-definition
movies to their library, it's a relatively cheap (all things considered) and
simple upgrade. "Here's what I can tell you for sure; it's going to be the
cheapest HD-DVD player you can buy without a doubt, when it comes out. I think
it's going to be a great value... Everybody is very enthusiastic with the
direction we're going. There are still a few surprises left. And I don't want
to spill the beans yet, but I think people are going to think it's a great
value," said Microsoft Larry Hyrb (aka Major Nelson). The low price tag can be
attributed to the heavy
lifting being performed by the XBOX 360 rather than the HD DVD drive. "All
the audio and video processing is done inside the XBOX," said Microsoft
senior program manager Kevin Collins.
As for the hardback book-sized drive itself, Microsoft
showcased the device running "The Phantom of the Opera." The design
of the drive, which has the internal codename of Sapphire, was all done in-house by Microsoft while Toshiba was
selected to manufacture the drive. It will feature two USB 2.0 ports on the
back to make up for the one USB port that the device itself uses. It also
features the same cut-out on the back as the XBOX 360 to hold Microsoft’s XBOX
360 Wireless Networking Adapter if you chose to mount it there. The HD DVD
interface, while not yet finished, was also on display. Gamerscore Blog has images posted of
how it will look including an animated
gif of it in action. The new interface basically replaces the
"old" Open Tray button on the dashboard with a hybrid button that can
toggle between DVD and HD DVD options with the up/down arrow keys. The drive
will also be software updatable via XBOX Live so as new
features are introduced, they can be automatically downloaded and applied.
Microsoft has revealed that it has some surprises in store
for gamers during the fourth quarter. We know that one of them is the
aforementioned HD DVD player and Gears of War.
Hopefully, this isn’t all that Microsoft is planning and we’ll have even more
to look forward to as the holiday season fast approaches.