Sunday, May 08, 2005

Xbox 360: Harddisk? Removable? Nonexistent?

It seems that the general consensus of the overall gaming community (or at least a summation of all the rumors that have been circulating) is that the Xbox 360 will initially be released in two "versions": one with a removable hard disk and one without, and that those who opt for the less costly option will be able to purchase the disk at a later date. However, an article I just read (linked from Wikipedia) dated March 4th says that the Xbox's successor will, indeed, not have a hard drive. Instead, the removable mass-storage device reffered to in these rumors is what's known as a "Solid State Hard Disk". Basically, it is a storage device that connects to a computer via IDE (or SATA) like a traditional hard disk that, for its actual storage capacity uses flash memory, like the USB enabled "thumb drives" that adorn the keyrings of millions of computer users today. If it weren't for the credibility of the source (Dov Moran, President and CEO of M-Systems, which holds a contract with Microsoft to create a storage medium for the console) I would be skeptical at this because of the nature of flash devices, which, I've heard, can be damaged after numerous write->erase->rewrite cycles. Yet another rumor states that Microsoft will release a 3rd rendition of the console, to coincide with the drop of the Playstation 3, that will function as either a high definition system, or as a fully-functional PC in and of itself.

Here's the quote from the interview, found in a TeamXbox article:
"It’s a cooperation agreement. The potential isn’t clear, but it’s in the billions of dollars. Microsoft has taken the hard disk out of its Xbox. The only thing left will be a CD; that’s all. At some point, when users want to save their e-mail messages, copy music, or anything like that, the only storage they’ll have is what we give them. It’s worth hundreds of millions to the company, spread over a few years, and we’ll be the main supplier for it; and I hope the sole supplier. "
That part about email really makes me wonder. Microsoft representatives were emphatic, prior to the release of the Xbox, that it would not support general computing activites such as email or instant messaging. Could it be that those functions will be included, to some degree, in the initial releases of the system, or is that simply a reference to the capabilities of the future PC-like device that's heated up the rumor mill?

Either way, it seems that the Xbox project as a whole is exactly what I assumed it to be when the Xbox was first announced. It is the realization of Gates' "Homestation" dream, partially described (if my memory serves me) in his book "The Road Ahead". It is a household entertainment hub that will provide games, movies, and DVR capabilities, among other entertainment services. Whatever happens, we know for a fact that the new system will have incredible capabilities, and it'll be interesting to see how they are implemented.

Source: TeamXbox | Other Resources: Wikipedia - Xbox 360 | Moran's Interview
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