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
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
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.