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Bill Gates chats with Dean Takahashi on all things Xbox 360

Engadget reported two weeks ago that a new revision of the Xbox 360, Zephyr, was due to be launched this year. Engadget posted a rather grainy image of an Xbox 360 which sported an HDMI port for native 1080p support. Xbox-Scene followed up with some clearer shots of the HDMI port along with a revised motherboard featuring the new HANA scaler chip.

Along with the new HDMI port, Engadget also reported that a new 120GB hard drive would be included in addition to already anticipated cooler-running 65 nanometer IBM Xenon PowerPC processor.

Not surprisingly, the inclusion of an HDMI port sparked the most debate on the internet. Discussion boards across the web turned into flame zones as techies argued back and forth over whether Microsoft was justified in releasing an HDMI-equipped Xbox 360.

When Microsoft was asked directly, Microsoft's Chris Satchell confirmed the existence of prototype Xbox 360s with an HDMI ports, but declined to expound on the possibility of seeing it in the future. Satchell also deflected questioning on the larger 120GB hard drive.

Dean Takahashi, always a close confidant to Microsoft executives, had a chance to press Bill Gates on future upgrades to the Xbox 360 including his thoughts on a larger hard drive and IPTV.

While Satchell deflected questioning on the possibility of a larger hard drive for IPTV, Gates simply said that it isn't needed. "In an IPTV environment, there is no reason to put anything down on a hard disk because you created a broadband infrastructure that has enough capacity to stream individual video streams to everybody on the network," said Gates. "In terms of videos and music, there is no reason to put it on the local hard disk."

Bill Gates also made mention that content providers are likely to be elated with the idea that no IPTV content would be stored on the Xbox 360's hard drive. “It means you can insert ads that are up to date. You can control how much ad skipping you allow. And you’re less vulnerable to getting at the bits. Xbox is a very protected environment. No one is going to go and get bits on an Xbox.” He went on to say “By being more secure than anything else out there, it’s pretty good. It’s really just the simplicity. You have to get permissions to do server-based DVR. You have to get the copyright owner’s permission.”

Also, contrary to what Paul Thurrott said in the January 12 edition of the Windows Weekly, no new revision of the Xbox 360 will be needed for users to take advantage of IPTV. "No, we don’t need to change it at all to do an IPTV thing."

Takahashi questioned Gates on the subject of the Xbox 360 competing head to head with Windows Media Center PCs. "Xbox has a slightly better hardware protection model. We may have some content we don’t get for everywhere. It’s very valid to point out that some of the good things we are doing in Media Center we should share with Xbox and some of the good things we are doing on Xbox we should share with the Media Center," Gates responded.

He added "If people are comparing Microsoft to Microsoft, we have no concern. It’s OK. Should we pick one form factor and worry about that? Should we be concerned if someone puts their media on my Zune or media on my Blackjack? There is enough uncertainty about who wants PC coming down in the living room and Xbox coming up that I don’t mind them meeting and even overlapping as long as the point system, the user interface, the development tools - as long as we get this incredible alignment.”

Gates also took the time to take a few jabs at Sony's PlayStation 3. Gates stated that Sony wouldn't have anything better-looking than the upcoming Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. "They were going to have the Cell be the video processor. But they didn’t know what they were doing. They said the Cell is the video processor. But they turned to Nvidia at the last minute, but Nvidia can’t do embedded DRAM. Go look at the bandwidth problems. Go ask the guys running ... now."

Gates seems very optimistic about the future of the Xbox 360 in the interview and is looking forward to working with content providers like AT&T for IPTV. Though Microsoft is downplaying the importance of hard drives larger than the 20GB currently in use (actually, only about 13GB are useable), the company is more likely than not to cave in to the demands of gamers and the market to deliver a considerable boost in storage.

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No new HDD>
By Xenoterranos on 1/20/2007 12:42:33 PM , Rating: 2
Bill Gates: "20 gigs should be enough for anybody!"

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 1:08:29 PM , Rating: 1
Haha, it sounded like he was going to say that at some point. But honestly, this "new" version should have been the first one. Also, if you frigging TAKE OUT a 203W AC adapter from the console and it STILL overheats, you fucked up somewhere in the architecture. It would have been nice to have 1080p and HDMI, they clearly didn't see how big it became BEFORE the launch of playstation 3. Thankfully they have 1080p but with some still critical issues. Microsoft thought behind and shot themselves in the foot a few times. Granted Sony shot themselves as well, so don't be bashing me just because I'm criticizing Microsoft. Also, the incapability to upgrade your HDD (if the screws were easier to reach, it is actually easier to remove the 360 HDD than the PS3) is pretty sad on their part. And the fact that you need a HDD to play original Xbox games, to go online, to play with people is ridiculous. It can be easily fixed if they say "hey boys and girls, here's an instruction manual on how to remove your HDD" and heck, add on to that "won't void warranty if you fuck up!". Playstation 3 of course has its issues (no upscaling games and DVDs, backwards compatibility audio/video quality issues, incapability to play games or do anything whilst downloading online content) but you have to realize that ALL of these issues can be solved with a firmware upgrade and they WILL be solved. But the issues of Microsoft, they have to come out with practically a new console just to solve its serious hardware issues.

RE: No new HDD>
By GreenEnvt on 1/20/2007 2:22:57 PM , Rating: 2
The PS3 scaler issue will most likely not be fixable via firmware. The PS3 lacks the scaler chip, so "revision A" PS3's may be stuck with it for life.

I'd certainly like to see an upgraded 360. The 360 has a lot more to offer me then the PS3, and would be a nice compliment to my Wii and Media center.

RE: No new HDD>
By Lakku on 1/20/2007 2:53:13 PM , Rating: 2
You need the HDD to play online for game updates, so far as I can tell. But aside from that, what serious hardware issues are you talking about with the 360? I can't think of any major issue, and the only minor one is the external power brick. But let me tell you a secret, the 360 doesn't overheat if you don't confine it. Also, the PS3 is MUCH hotter to the touch while in use then the 360. Yes, I have both and the air coming out of the PS3 is hot to the touch, while the 360 is warm to hot, but not that much. Either way, neither of them crashes on me. As for the scaler issue on the PS3, you don't know if it will be fixed. They used to offer 720p playback for BD but it was disabled in one of the later updates. Rumors are that 720p playback was looking to good, as in the scaler, or lack of a quality one, was a hinderence. We'll have to wait and see, but the inability for my PS3 not to output at 720p for BD (it works for games) is more of a major issue then anything on my 360.

RE: No new HDD>
By Lakku on 1/20/2007 2:54:49 PM , Rating: 2
720p wasn't looking to good I mean

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 3:07:29 PM , Rating: 2
Just because YOU didn't have an overheating 360 doesn't mean they are out there. And the ps3 is hot to the touch, but its better that way because that means there was heat internally as well. And the scalar issue WILL be solved, they just need more ps3's in people's hands before they do it They are worried about sales right now. And seriously, 1080i looks fine (actually, its preferred for most movies, unless watching extremely fast paced). These are MINOR issues that will be solved with firmware. (BTW, my 360 is/was not confined in anyway, shape or form and it still crashed on me; my point was the overheating crash rate was much higher than it should have been, which is why they are changing the processor from 90nm to 65nm, possibly adding HDMI and a bigger HDD)

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 3:08:45 PM , Rating: 2
Heat internally for the 360, I mean. Plus, the 360 was hot to the touch too, but I had a shitty one in the first place, so a moot point.

RE: No new HDD>
By Canizorro on 1/20/2007 5:04:12 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the OP meant that the problem with the scalar issue might not be able to be resolved for existing customers. Which is true. Sony had said early on that a firmware update would solve the issue, but that statement has since been retracted and is unknown if it can be resolved for existing PS3 owners. As for it being a minor issue, it's a major issue for HDTV early adopters whose sets can only display HD in 1080i. The overheating issue is a moot point as well. Microsoft has extended warranties, offered free repair, and refunds to owners who already had repair work done.

RE: No new HDD>
By Canizorro on 1/20/2007 5:08:10 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, sorry I meant Lakku instead the OP.

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 5:28:41 PM , Rating: 2
Oh THAT, yes thats major for those poor souls with just 1080i/480p option. Why wouldn't be solved with a firmware update? If the 360 can have the option to output 1080p (and upscale 720p games to that resolution) with just a firmware update, why couldn't Sony? Also, is there any count on how many HDTVs have just 1080i/480p?

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 5:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
Nvmd, Scalar chip, got it.

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 5:38:36 PM , Rating: 2
But wait...scalar chip? Couldn't the Cell microprocessor and Nvidia's RSX handle scaling data? I don't see how Blu-Ray movies being shown at 1080i can't be shown at 720p. The PS3 has the power to upscale, why do you need a scalar chip? I'm confused. Someone please explain.

RE: No new HDD>
By S3anister on 1/20/2007 8:29:34 PM , Rating: 3
nobody is going to explain because they can't. and you're right, they should be able to do SOME kind of software update to create upscaling, i mean, just look at the soft modded (original) xboxes, and their media center program, it could scale to 720p/480p/480i just fine, it didn't even matter.

I'm not a sony hater at all, i have a lot of their stuff and it works great. but i think they did a bad job on the PS3.

RE: No new HDD>
By ViperROhb34 on 1/20/2007 8:39:47 PM , Rating: 2
I agree overall.. Thing is some people forget these consoles were designed virtually at the same time.. Just that PS3 got delayed a year. PS3 really had the same time frame for game development when you look at how long developers had their PS3's.. and yet three games already show what Gates described lack of memory bandwidth for the PS3 video GPU..

RE: No new HDD>
By daftrok on 1/20/2007 9:35:20 PM , Rating: 1
A bad job? My point all along was that despite these issues, they can be fixed (for the most part) using firmware upgrades, and making it a good job (except the price).

RE: No new HDD>
By giantpandaman2 on 1/21/2007 1:28:06 AM , Rating: 2
RSX and Cell can scale things fine...if you're only watching a movie. For a game, though, they're already busy doing the game. So no firmware will fix the lack of scaler for gamers who want to play their 720p game on at 1080i on a 1080i/480p set.

RE: No new HDD>
By Alexvrb on 1/21/2007 9:18:13 AM , Rating: 2
Count? Who knows, but its a lot. Many entry-level HDTVs still do not support 720p. You have to dig into specs and spend more money to get 720p. Most people STILL don't have an HDTV. As people move to HDTVs, they generally buy more of the affordable ones (I know I did) and are "stuck" with 1080i. For HD TV content, movies and 360 games, it looks awesome, because they can be scaled properly and retain excellent quality. Not so for PS3 games with the current revision.

Find a cheap, decent sized 720p-capable HDTV. If advertized properly, that's a model that will sell! As for 1080p... it's way too soon to see mass adoption, no matter how many TV ads Sony runs on their "true HD" sets. Most people don't have the cash money to burn. That's why the Wii is a running success, while the PS3 is shelf-warmer. Affordable and fun. "True HD" not required.

RE: No new HDD>
By Funksultan on 1/22/2007 9:28:08 AM , Rating: 1
Alexvrb, you have a point, but it's incredibly short sighted.

Think about how many 1080p sets were sold last year, how many will be sold this year, how many will be sold NEXT year... that is what good companies do. They see trends BEFORE they happen, not while they are happening. The consoles we are seeing now are going to have a productive life of more than 5 years, and a very functional life of probably close to 10 (hell, if the media functionality is good, it could be even longer!).

Think long term. That's what everyone is doing. The people who can't see the big picture are the ones saying "ZOMG, ZOMG, there aren't any good 1080p gamez! 1080p iz a waste!". The accurate way to think of it is 2 years from now, we could be seeing an environment where any game that ISN'T 1080p native will get dinged. This situation happens all the time.

Microsoft, Sony... these are companies that aren't going to declare bankruptsy any time soon. They aren't in this to win the battle, they are in it to win the war.

"Think about the future."
- Jack Napier

RE: No new HDD>
By rykerabel on 1/22/2007 3:38:17 PM , Rating: 2
$1200 seems pretty good for a 42" 1080p LCD with 1080p HDMI inputs:

RE: No new HDD>
By Hypernova on 1/20/2007 3:23:49 PM , Rating: 2
Gate has a good point in that IPTV should not be recordable, this make content provider have greater control over their data and breath easier know if they provide premium content it's not easily copied. The whole point of streaming is so that you can't keep the data, and that was a big reason why Youtube was being scrutinised since you can download youtube videos.

If the HDD stays small though there will be an issue with providers that choose to go with the "Download to keep" business model.

RE: No new HDD>
By xphile on 1/21/2007 6:10:12 AM , Rating: 2
... said Gates. "In terms of videos and music, there is no reason to put it on the local hard disk."

This will be why you, me, and everyone else in the world has zero music or movie files on any of their hard disks then will it? I mean ok I can understand the piracy aspect regarding IPTV but this is just plain nonsense. What he's really saying is "YOu will put up with 20gb until we get enough time passed to put out a version with an 80 - 120GB drive and not have a huge consumer backlash that current versions cant be upgraded.

Then the story will magically change to: "This new version allows allows a vast number of new innovative features, including HDMI output in full 1080P and the ability to save prepaid multimedia downloads so you can now watch them when you want to, because we know not everyone sits down and watches a tv set like it was a movie then gets up and leaves when it's over"

This is what the industry calls an ACM or Ass Covering Manouevre. 20GB is even less all you need in HD space today than the infamous 640k of memory was back in the 90's (whether Bill did say that or not). To say this today, even refering to IPTV, when you have a game system attached as well as LIVE downloads is even worse than that. Try and even FIND a 20gb HDD in a retail store. You cant - havent been able to for a long time. Last time you could they cost MORE than a 40GB drive because of supply and demand. Sure they are made to spec in volume for MS but a 60GB model would probably have a real cost to them today of about $5 more.

He'd have sounded more realistic and honest saying "Look if we give you 13GB formated accessable HDD space, there isnt anyway you're ever going to copy even one 15GB layer of an HD-DVD disc to our system."

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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