120GB, HDMI, IPTV and 10 million sold for the 360

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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) starts next week, and similar to previous years, Bill Gates will kick off the show with a keynote speech. In previous years he has unveiled the original Xbox, the HD-DVD drive for the 360, and other things. This year people speculate that the keynote will include some news about the 360, and there even been some leaked articles to that effect.

Xbox 360 'Zypher' - included 120GB hard drive. HDMI port. Possibly on the 65nm process which would make the system run much cooler.

Video of the HDMI port.

Xbox 360 IPTV and crosses 10 million (note: this links to a forum post, the original article has since been pulled) - the 10 million figure is significant for a couple of reasons. First off is that it falls in line with Microsoft's expectations, so the 360 has met MS' projections thus far. Secondly, in a famous statement, Peter Moore shared with the world that the first console to 10 million units sold wins.


My own personal thoughts...

HDMI - I don't care since I don't even have an HD tv. But going forward, I'm sure that'll make certain people happy. Not a big deal really.

IPTV - this could be huge. I've never hidden my love affair with Video on Demand and similar services, so if MS partners with a company such as Rogers (here in Canada) to make the 360 act as a Set Top Box to deliver IPTV, that would make ME a very very very happy man. This could be a long ways away, but may fall in line with the greatly expanded Video Marketplace that MS launched late in 2006. Hopefully an IPTV service launches soon, is good, and is available in Canada.

120GB HDD - definitely nice, and it'll obviously be sold as a standalone on its own. Though looking at 360 accessory pricing, I wouldn't be surprised if I had to donate some kidneys to afford it. It definitely is nice though so people won't have to worry about filling up their hard drives with demos and movies now that the marketplace is available. Still, the thing is still attached to your Xbox. My dream: network storage! Update the damn firmware and let people store trailers, demos, etc on their computers and stream movies from there. I can understand why MS doesn't want to do it as it opens the content up to a lot of risks, but it'd make life so much better.

10 million sold - this doesn't really affect anybody other than MS shareholders. However, it does mean that the 360 has reached a critical mass that'll ensure its survival for the next 5 years or so. Furthermore, this kind of userbase numbers also mean that the 360 will be getting a lot of great games for a long time to come since publishers know there's an audience that will buy them.

Pretty good dirt you dug up. I'm excited by IPTV. I think eventually TV will move to this format and get delivered over your broadband connection.

Here's a video showing the IPTV service running on the 360.

My thoughts. Microsoft has been extremely active in the IPTV market for a couple of years now and has been trying to secure deals for a while. They provide the server software on the provider end, and now they're completing the chain with the 360. I think it's becoming a lot clearer how Microsoft intends to position itself now going into the long term.

People that follow this kind of CES information, always here about "the battle for the living room" or "the battle to be the box under your tv". Well in Microsoft's case, they have (or had) some boxes that would compete with themselves. You'd have the Home Theatre PCs, you'd have the whole WebTV thing, and maybe one or two that I'm forgetting, that are obviously not worth remembering.

Now with the 360, Microsoft has realized that a games console is the best box to have underneath your tv. Essentially, the 360 is going to be Microsoft's set top box that goes under your tv. What's cool is that Microsoft has created the 360 as a platform unto itself that is very organic and can grow and modify as needed for each particular user. If you want high-def content, now you have 3 different ways to watch it, all on the same box.

Compare this with Apple's iTV. It's unclear whether or not it's going to contain some kind of disc media, or if it's for purely streaming purposes. If it's a disc media, then is it going to be Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? Most likely it'll be Blu-Ray, but for the rumoured $300 price tag, I highly doubt the iTV will be able to play BR movies. That leaves it solely with the streaming option. Ok, fine. But now you HAVE to have a PC if you want to watch tv. And you're limited to streaming content. Furthermore, it's unclear whether you'll be able to watch normal tv at all, or if it's just going to be all downloaded stuff. All of this for $300.

Now for $300, you can pick up a core 360 that lets you play all 360 games. Can hook up to your computer, and this fall will act as a gateway for IPTV. So you won't even need a computer to watch normal broadcast television.

It's obvious that the IPTV client software is something that was developed for STBs in general, and they simply ported the application to the 360's platform. I wonder what other software MS plans to bring over to the 360.

So that I don't sound like a total gushing fanboy I'm trying to think of downsides to this whole thing. Well, the super obvious one is the absolute absense of DVR capabilities due to the 360's puny hard drive. I mean, the 360 CAN act as a DVR which is darn cool, but you won't be able to use it for anything worthwhile since the hard drive will fill up after 2 episodes. Again, the solution is network storage! They better announce that quickly. Secondly, is that the availability of the service is going to be very limited for the next couple of years I imagine. I'd hope this kind of service becomes available in Canada, but I'm not holding my breath for it happening in 2007. Although Sympatico was having a promotion where they were giving away a free 360 with a subscription to Internet service I believe. So that could be an indication that they plan on supporting IPTV eventually... or it could just be a normal promotion.

The other downside is that I don't think it's going to work as advertised. Sure the demo looks pretty spiffy, but we'll see what happens when it's actually working in reality. I predict lag, connection issues, and other annoyances will pop up and won't be polished up for another year until after the service launches.

Also, I found it pretty funny about how the best example the guy could give for the coolness of IPTV was for PIP services. Ooooh, I can have PIP, just like every decent TV that has been released for the past 10 years! No no, but this time you can have SIX streams going at once! Give me a break. Who the hell can watch 6 different stations at once? Nobody! It's useless. That's not to say that there aren't any cool things you can do with IPTV, it's just that the lack of vision, or his willingness to share any vision was pretty ridiculous. Once you go the complete digital route and make things powered by software, you have SO much flexibility to do a lot of really cool things. Just look at TIVO to see some of the possibilities, such as recommendations and that kind of thing. Then there's the whole community aspect. Because it's running over IP and through software, it's extremely easy for the box to communicate BACK with the service provider. So people could start doing all kinds of social networking such as tagging shows, deep tagging specific content inside of shows, cutting and sharing their own clips. And those are just some lame things I came up with off the top of my head.

As an aside. After using the Wii Opera browser at my friend's place, I have to say that a web browser on the 360 would be an excellent feature. Being able to stream YouTube and everything is just so damn sweet. I was very very very impressed by how well it worked with the Wii. And considering both the PS3 and Wii have web browsers, MS is definitely the lone one that doesn't, and therefore SHOULD.. and most likely WILL in the not so distant future. March dashboard update is my guess!

How you doing?  I have a few questions for you.  I am learning about home
automation and media aspect of things in terms of home entertainment and
distributed audio.  Basically right now the windows media center is good
for me because the software i use to control the homes is accessible as an
additional option on the MC main menu. From here you can control lighting,
emperature and security features and also allows for remote access.  The
problem I am running into though is utilizing multiple zones in the sense
that since the MC is feeding multiple TVs audio zones the whole house is
required to listen to the same media.  I know you have 2 xbox 360s and i
was wondering how you have them hooked up?  Are they running off a main
server and then using each of those to access the files?  If so are you
accessing the same files or do you have to copy them to your 360? I am just
learning as much as I can right now.  I also want to know are they equipped
with blue ray technology or HD format?

I'm not running 2 360s anymore. Just a normal Xbox and a 360. There's a central server computer that has all the media and files that the Xboxen stream from. You don't have to copy your files locally to the game consoles, just stream them over your network and you're good to go. Each box can stream its own independent file, and as long as you're not doing on the fly transcoding you should be able to have quite a few streams happening simultaneously.

As for HD technology, I don't even have an HDTV! So no, I'm not running anything HD. However, you can download shows in HD and stream them over your network, though it'll have to be wired, as most wireless networks have difficult streaming HD. You can pickup a the HD-DVD drive for the 360 to play HD-DVD discs, or you can pickup a PS3, but you'll lose the Media Center Extender functionality, but gain Blu-Ray playback.

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