Has the great ship Microsoft sprung a leak, such is the number of rumors flying around and the amount of buzz being generated by the rumor mill. Is Microsoft trickle feeding the rumor mill once again?
Buzz surrounding many aspects of the 720 have appeared this week. The news that the 720 would integrate Blu-ray and Kinect 2 seemed no surprise to anyone. Two separate consoles with different price points and technologies even seems plausible but the news that Microsoft is contemplating banning second hand games comes from left field.
While news surrounding the Xbox 720 is getting the most of the attention don’t forget the Kinect for laptops, an interesting adaptation of technology. Like a jigsaw with no box we wonder what all of these jigsaw pieces add up to, what picture do they form?
The most unusual rumor of the week is the tale that Microsoft will ban second hand games from the 720. This sounds like a lot of work to simply put your larger retailers out of business. Retailers such as EB Games are the ones after all who have the most to lose in this situation. Obviously Microsoft is being pressured by the software houses – the ones who really hate second hand sales – to put a stop to it. Microsoft loses royalties on second hand games but they have the console sale to make up for it, they don’t mind. Is this a sign Microsoft and the software developers are in the middle of royalty negotiations at the moment ?
Kinect for Laptops
One of the many hidden demonstrations at CES in January were the nifty Kinect Laptops. With the Kinetic sensors built into the laptop above the LCD, where the webcam might normally be, the sensors blended into the case of the laptop so much that you might not even know it was there. The laptop Kinect is able to recognize faces, perform voice commands, track body movement at 30 frames a second. Demonstrated were on what was said to be an ASUS laptop, with it being a fully function unit. Not a revolutionary technology but more a demonstration that Microsoft wants to Kinect the world.
Blu-ray and Kinect
Back to the 720 we learn that it will be fitted with a Blu-ray player as standard. A logical step for the next Xbox. Although the buzz also suggests there will be a cheaper set top box style console that won’t include a drive of any kind. The 720 will also integrate the next generation Kinect 2 device, part of Microsoft’s push to get the Kinect in to everything. The bigger, better, faster Kinect 2 is a long way off so the buzz around this rumor probably suggests the 720 is still a fair way off. Even the lower priced 720 is said to integrate Kinect functionality.
Two price points at release?
The rumors of two models of 720 console have been mentioned amongst the buzz. A cheaper set top box style 720 and a full blown Über console version of the 720. The rumor has it partially right, there will be two iterations of 720 but there will be a big difference in the technology used.
The information leaking from chip manufacturers – the source of many of the 6670 rumors – is that the Odan chipset will be similar to AMD’s A-Series Fusion CPU’s that integrate CPU + GPU + Northbridge + Memory Controller all into a single piece of silicon. The GPU in the Odan chip being produced is the widely rumored 7670 equivalent – the as yet unreleased 6670 replacement using 7000 series technology -. The Northbridge functionality of the current generation A-Series includes; PCI Express – PCIe-, Audio and various Input/Output functions, Odan will also have a Power PC CPU in place of an AMD x86 CPU. As AMD has shown with it’s A-Series and soon to be released Trinity CPU’s you can build a lot of chip into a little piece of silicon now days.
As the A-Series chips from AMD have also demonstrated they are fast when using integrated graphics and extremely fast when a high end video card is connected. Using the integrated PCIe bus and AMD’s Crossfire technology Microsoft could easily create two very different models. The low end model would use the integrated 6670 and consist of a single chip. The high end console would include the same Odan chip but with a more powerful GPU connected using PCIe and Crossfire. In this way anything up to a 7970 could be integrated into a top end 720. Using Direct X technology this becomes a simple proposition – see previous article for Direct X 11 changes -. Pure speculation of course.
Price and Release Date
The release date, final design and price of all models is still in total flux. While some sites are reporting price already, here at Highpants we won’t touch that one. Sony and Microsoft have been known to change pricing at any time right up to the release date, and even soon after release dates. It all depends on the market forces. The big news for pricing will be the two models serving two very different price points.
The release date for the next generation PlayStation and Xbox has slipped to 2013. Comments from Microsoft suggest that the introduction of the Kinect revitalized sales taking the pressure off demands for new hardware. There are a number of Kinect updates planned for the first half of 2012, the 720 won’t be released until Microsoft has finished milking the Kinect for all its worth. Which is where the talk of a 2013 release comes in, especially if the 720 is released with the next generation Kinect 2 technology. CES 2012 is even looking optimistic, which would mean a second half of 2013 release date.
While we do love to roll around in the mud that is the rumor mill all we really know for sure is that Microsoft is looking to have a very busy 2012, Kinect releases, Window 8, a new version of Office and the continued spread of its Metro UI will all precede the release of the new Xbox 720. As far as the 720 is concerned the picture building is indeed an interesting one. Multiple models, integrated Blu-ray, Kinect, Kinect even for laptops. While the Technorati are expecting an underpowered 6670 based console we here at Highpants suspect they have something very different in store for the high end console market. The use of Crossfire technology may just be the surprise everyone is waiting for.
Further Information: Previous XBox720 Highpants Article