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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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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:
http://www.amazon.com/Westinghouse-LVM-42W2-1080p-...



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