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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: Solution to sony's problems
By daftrok on 1/21/2007 10:26:35 PM , Rating: 1
Once again, EA games has contracts both with Microsoft and Sony so the games will look similar, if not better, on Microsoft's 360 because Microsoft (and Nintendo) have more influence in Washington. And HD DVD is NOT better. Just because it is doing better at a Target somewhere or Amazon does not mean overall. And 360 will choke in China just like it choked in Japan. Reality is..its been fucking 8 weeks! You can't say a god damn console is a failure when they shipped a million units (not sold, but whatever). And how the hell can you predict exclusive games will be an all time low when they are not even frigging out yet? Wait and see, don't jump the gun 2 months after a console launched.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By andrep74 on 1/22/2007 4:10:43 AM , Rating: 2
Even if your obscure reference, with no source, can be substantiated, it makes no sense to say that an American company has a better-looking game because of politics. I don't know how a politician could call a games company and tell them to "tone down the tree textures a bit" unless they are shareholders or on the board of directors. If the games developers are tasked with writing a game and given a budget and timeframe, they do what they can with what they have. If it costs more time to make the equivalent textures available to the game without affecting gameplay, then that may end up being a corner that is cut. Given superior memory bandwidth in the 360, it's not surprising that textures may be of lower quality on the PS3.

I find it amazing that you are whining about people calling PS3 a failure at eight weeks, and yet you are more than happy to call the 360 a failure in China before it's even out. I think the 360 failed in Japan because it's the Japanese consumer that wants to see the 360 fail because they are more nationalistic than you realize: they'll buy Sony because it's Japanese. Also, being that it's been sold as an equivalent, if not better, console than the 360, and given the relationship that Japanese developers have with Sony, the style of game that the Japanese consumer is interested in is mostly available on the PS3. So software is driving sales in Japan.

HD-DVD is indeed inferior to BD, but can the average consumer point out the differences? Probably not with enough consistency to make BD worth the royalties a single company collects every time it's used. Once PS3 games start to become epic enough that BD becomes necessary for game storage, I'm sure the next generation of consoles will be out and this whole HD/BD mess will be sorted out. I might be wrong, but until then I still have the right to purchase a PS3.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By daftrok on 1/22/2007 1:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
You answered your own question "they are shareholders or on the board of directors". Granted, time frames are another factor, but the fact that several of the multi-platform games are having texture issues surprises me (though NBA 2k7 and Fight Night look amazing). The reason why it surprises me is because, according to CNET:

Xbox 360 Specs:

Playstation 3 Specs:

In the bandwidth, it seems to be quite similar, neither seem to outshine, unless I am misreading the data?

I said the 360 will fail in CHINA because that is an assumption. I didn't however say it was going to be a failure PERIOD. There's a difference (but I apologize for not specifying).

I hoped that the software and coding in the HD DVD can just be used on Blu Ray, that way both Sony and Microsoft (and everybody!) can benefit and the inferior technology can be chucked. I'm sure around spring or summer time when ps3 has more options their sales will go up, which in turn will make the Blu Ray drives cheaper, which in time will make Blu Ray players cheaper than the ps3, which in turn makes the ps3 cheaper (also the cell processor is beginning to be used in other devices, I think I heard cellphones and even a few Blu ray players, but I'm not sure on that)

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By ViperROhb34 on 1/22/2007 2:40:13 PM , Rating: 2
Actually if you look at the specs you'll see why you have no idea what you are talking about in the links you posted.

The Ps3 and Xbox 360 might be similar, but the Xbox 360's bandwidth is better.

• RSX @550MHz
System Bandwidth
• RSX: Bandwidth 20GB/s (write) + 15GB/s(read)

Xbox 360
Custom ATI Graphics Processor
• 500MHz processor
• 10 MB of embedded DRAM (thats eDRAM in the GPU)
22.4 GB/s memory interface bus bandwidth
• 256 GB/s memory bandwidth to EDRAM
• 21.6 GB/s front-side bus

Notice the 10MB bulit into the Xbox 360 ?
Its bandwidth is 256 GB !! The Ps3 doesnt have this.
Data can be moved in and out at tremndous speeds.
Its not alot of memory if you don't understand caching, but when you can move data in and out that fast it doesnt need to be that big. Point is this makes a difference.

On top of that the RSX bandwidth in "reading" is a mere 15GB a second.. compared to the Xbox 360 which cna fully utilize the FSB at 22.4 GB on read and write!!

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By ViperROhb34 on 1/22/2007 6:01:59 PM , Rating: 2
Triangle Setup
Xbox 360 - 500 Million Triangles/sec
PS3 - 250 Million Triangles/sec

Vertex Shader Processing
Xbox 360 - 6.0 Billion Vertices/sec (using all 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 2.0 Billion Vertices/sec (using only 16 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 1.5 Billion Vertices/sec (using only 12 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 1.0 Billion Vertices/sec (using only 8 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
PS3 - 1.0 Billion Vertices/sec

Filtered Texture Fetch
Xbox 360 - 8.0 Billion Texels/sec
PS3 - 12.0 Billion Texels/sec

Vertex Texture Fetch
Xbox 360 - 8.0 Billion Texels/sec
PS3 - 4.0 Billion Texels/sec

Pixel Shader Processing with 16 Filtered Texels Per Cycle (Pixel ALU x Clock)
Xbox 360 - 24.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using all 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 20.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 40 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 18.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 36 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 16.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 32 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
PS3 - 16.0 Billion Pixels/sec

Pixel Shader Processing without Textures (Pixel ALU x Clock)
Xbox 360 - 24.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using all 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 20.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 40 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 18.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 36 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
Xbox 360 - 16.0 Billion Pixels/sec (using 32 of the 48 Unified Pipelines)
PS3 - 24.0 Billion Pixels/sec

Multisampled Fill Rate
Xbox 360 - 16.0 Billion Samples/sec (8 ROPS x 4 Samples x 500MHz)
PS3 - 8.0 Billion Samples/sec (8 ROPS x 2 Samples x 500MHz)

Pixel Fill Rate with 4x Multisampled Anti-Aliasing
Xbox 360 - 4.0 Billion Pixels/sec (8 ROPS x 4 Samples x 500MHz / 4)
PS3 - 2.0 Billion Pixels/sec (8 ROPS x 2 Samples x 500MHz / 4)

Pixel Fill Rate without Anti-Aliasing
Xbox 360 - 4.0 Billion Pixels/sec (8 ROPS x 500MHz)
PS3 - 4.0 Billion Pixels/sec (8 ROPS x 500MHz)

Frame Buffer Bandwidth
Xbox 360 - 256.0 GB/sec (dedicated for frame buffer rendering)
PS3 - 20.8 GB/sec (shared with other graphics data: textures and vertices)
PS3 - 10.8 GB/sec (with 10.0 GB/sec subtracted for textures and vertices)
PS3 - 8.4 GB/sec (with 12.4 GB/sec subtracted for textures and vertices)

Texture/Vertex Memory Bandwidth
Xbox 360 - 22.4 GB/sec (shared with CPU)
Xbox 360 - 14.4 GB/sec (with 8.0 GB/sec subtracted for CPU)
Xbox 360 - 12.4 GB/sec (with 10.0 GB/sec subtracted for CPU)
PS3 - 20.8 GB/sec (shared with frame buffer)
PS3 - 10.8 GB/sec (with 10.0 GB/sec subtracted for frame buffer)
PS3 - 8.4 GB/sec (with 12.4 GB/sec subtracted for frame buffer)

Shader Model
Xbox 360 - Shader Model 3.0+ / Unified Shader Architecture
PS3 - Shader Model 3.0 / Discrete Shader Architecture

Xbox 360 has the advantage in most cases.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By daftrok on 1/22/2007 8:54:44 PM , Rating: 1
"The Inquirer cited PS3 triangle setup rates of 270 million per second, compared to the 360's 500 million.

Developers, however, seem to have taken issue with the report, telling that the figures are meaningless and lacking in context. A developer, who could not be named for fear of breaching an NDA, stated that the numbers were not necessarily reflective of game performance, noting that theoretically the PS2 boasted a higher triangle number than the Xbox (which was of course far more powerful, in practice)."

Also, Viper, perhaps you should have shown all of chairmansteve's spec sheet, like in the beginning:

"Let's look at the maximum theoretical numbers for the Xbox 360 and PS3 GPUs.
Some PS3 GPU (RSX) specs are still not confirmed. It's assumed to have 24 pixel pipelines, 8 vertex pipelines, 8 ROPS (raster), and 550MHz clock speed. But any of those could change, especially the clock speed."

So the specs given are in fact theoretical (and were given several months before launch, so these specs for the ps3 are in fact not confirmed).

These specs are mostly irrelevant. The processor for the playstation 2 was 1/3 the power of the xbox and xbox was slightly graphically better than the playstation 2, but, despite what these numbers show, the ps3 and xbox 360 are much more closer when it comes to processing power (also the architecture of the ps3 is more advanced; the ps2 had 1/3 of the processing power but stayed nearly on par with all of the multi-platform games of the xbox). Plus, the games look amazing and will look amazing, will have true 1080p and will be cheaper as time moves on.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By ViperROhb34 on 1/22/2007 2:23:04 PM , Rating: 2
When did you see PS2 lose any exclusive titles to Gamecube ?
It didnt happen ! So far three games that were supposed to be EXCLUSIVES for PS3 have been ported to Xbox 360. Don't you ever watch G4? Developers know this 600 dollar unit is priced too high to pull the kind of numbers PS2 did.

Sony has shipped a million but the numbers bought reflect around 600-700k and AT LEAST half of those people bought them with intentions of re-selling on Ebay. I can buy a PS3 now at 8 weeks for store price. When 360 had been out for 6-7 months.. it was still selling for 1200 on Ebay and very hard to find at stores.

The fact that Final Fantasy Creator and a few other Japanese developers - well respected ones- have decided to develop Blue Dragon for 360 says MS is doing something right. 360 still has a chance to do well in Japan if this game is as a good as the reviews say and on top of that they are being given in a game what they want.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By daftrok on 1/22/2007 9:00:51 PM , Rating: 1
OH WOW A WHOPPING 3 GAMES. Grand Theft Auto, and two others I forgot because I DONT CARE. And the 360 was hard to find because they were working on the HORRIBLE overheating issues. And one Blue Dragon game for the 360 doesn't mean all the Japanese games will start flooding towards 360. And the reason why PS2 didn't lose any exclusivs to Gamecube because with the exception of Mario and Resident Evil 4, Gamecube SUCKS.

RE: Solution to sony's problems
By daftrok on 1/22/2007 10:26:42 PM , Rating: 1
Viper..I'm tired. I'm tired of this pointless back and forth arguing. Lets just say this:

"Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 had very rough launches.

The 360 had serious overheating issues in the beginning and initially had very few games for the consumer to choose from, and even most of those games were available in previous generation consoles. Propriety was another issue, as special charge kits, special wireless adapters, special HDDS, special power cables, and even at one point special remotes were needed to get the full experience of Xbox 360. It has been highly critiqued that the 360 did not plan as far ahead as one might have hoped, with lack of HDMI, 1080p, bluetooth technology, and limited usb ports for connectivity. However, the upgrades this year has pushed the expectations higher than expected for the 360 and now will include HDMI (though argued to be a bit unfair for those first buyers) to make TRUE 1080p more of a possibility for HD DVD movies and (if DVDs can deliver) games. IPTV is a unique idea and allows users to watch shows in HD without adding strain to the HDD. However, it has been seen that the renting of HD movies and television shows can lead to serious issues, as 13 usable GBs will not suffice for storage as time progresses. It is still unsure what Microsoft will do. Perhaps they will allow users to upgrade their HDD on their own without buying HDDs from Microsoft itself. Perhaps not. We shall wait and see.

The PS3 was hit by blu-laser diode production issues, massive battery recalls which in turn forced Sony to check, double check, and check again that the batteries in the controllers and the internal AC adapter was up to spec and not potent to explosions. The launch number was cut, but has shipped over one million units (though not sold that many yet) so far. The lack of games and (though not as well known) scalar issues and price have discouraged consumers from buying the console. However, as more games come along, it will push sales. Also, the cell processor and Blu-Ray disc drives in production have exceeded 2 million and will in time bring down production costs for the playstation 3. Playstation 3 focused more on making sure that hardware would be solved and any software problems can be simply solved with an update. However, scaling issues have become a more serious issue and it is still quite unclear as to whether or not this will be solved with a simple update. We shall wait and see.

Overall, though both had rough launches, both have their strength and weaknesses. At this point it is a bit unclear as to what the future holds for both, but we shall wait and see."

Good? Alright. I'm spent.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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