The Xbox Road Map – Why Microsoft needs the 720 in 2013

On June 16, 2012

While I am admittedly a bit of an Apple fanboy, nothing from last weeks WWDC really impressed. Almost everything apple launched came with a negative: the macbook pro was sexy and slim, but completely un-upgradeable; the new iOS features looked great, but many older devices won’t get them; the tiny upgrade to mac pro’s when pro users were really expecting something BIG this summer. No regular macbook update. And many others

It is this aggressive means in which apple push their products which sometimes really bugs me. However, this is why I love my Xbox. I bought my current unit in 2007 and it’s still going strong – no slow downs, no limitations within the range and I get all the updates even if my box isn’t the most recent gen. The Xbox live service has been great and new DLC and App market features over the past few years have really shown its worth. But it looks like 2013 will be all change for the unit, as a leaked presentation document gives evidence too. Although the date of origin is unknown (I assume in 2011 or early 2012), it’s interesting to peak at and compare to recent announcements at E3. So why have Microsoft identified 2013 as the year to finally take the plunge?

Ignoring the initial “Front end process” at the beginning of the presentation, lets look into what Xbox has identified as its limitations and areas it needs to improve (p.4): 

  •  Fluidity of AAA titles + Kinect V1 – Like I mentioned in my previous post regarding Leap Motion, I never really got on with Kinect as it didn’t have seemless integration with top titles. I’m sorry if I don’t get a buzz out of tickling a CGI tiger or dancing in my living room like a muppet. Kinect V2 is now likely to be bundled with the next unit and will have a much better integration with those top titles. I’m already liking the little it being introduced to Fifa 13. 
  •  No XTV compatibility – Microsoft are desperate to expand their entertainment capabilities and want the next model to kill-off all the other units in your entertainment system (p.17) – blue-ray/DVD player, Freeview box, Sky Box, DVR, Apple TV, Wii – the lot. I wonder how Ikea will respond to such a minimal entertainment unit to sit your TV on. No matter what they release, my NES isn’t going anywhere! 
  •  Lacking Modern entertainment capability - It looks like Microsoft will finally bite the Blue-ray. Also they might be pushing for dual HDMI outputs and inputs. 
  •  No native 3D: Meh… I’ve not been so fussed about 3D, especially what I’ve witnessed in the cinema. Much is done in post and not shot in 3D, so a lot of what goes out is a bit of a let down. However, 3D games have to be programed from the ground up with this in mind, so maybe it will be of much higher quality – and hopefully without the headaches :-/

Ok, so far most of that is probably quite obvious to even amateur gamers. So, where’s the ridiculously sexy stuff coming? NOW…

Glasses – Project Fortaleza

So another company is going down the HUD display straight into your retina idea. Google have been drip feeding us bits of info on this, with Sergey Brin showing up in multiple places with his cyborg-like piece of kit on his face. The key difference here is that the Xbox integration will allow not only HUD information, but potentially augmented reality gameplay. 

smartglass

Xbox Smart Glass, the project announced at E3 recently also ties in with this, allowing you to potentially bring the glasses away from the main unit into the real world and utilise them as a more general tool for everyday use – much like Google has proposed. Alongside the HUD, 3D is on the agenda. Although personally I am not a 3D fan, Microsoft has identified a need for its next machine to run native 3D and pairing it with the HUD display will pull users further into the experience.

Multiple Application Support and Multiplexing

One of the heavy limitations on the older models is the ability to quickly switch between apps or games. Recognised by Apple in later generations of its iOS, people are becoming more impatient with loading times and the ability to move between these devices so heavily laden with applications. Not only have side-by-side app processing been slated for introduction, but greater multiplexing between apps. Given the greatly improved technical specs of the unit and the growing number of apps available through its store, this will be a very welcome addition.

Improving right from the Core(s). 

A brief look at the planned architecture for the new unit gives you an idea of how much grunt is going in. 

Picture_2

With all the ARM cores being shoved in, this should make the unit around 6-8 times faster than the current unit. 

Never need to update hardware again

That’s a VERY bold statement by Microsoft. P.40 simply states this. I’m not sure if they truly mean “Never” but if they launch with this statement at the forefront of their product mission statement, it will certainly impress. 

So the roadmap for the new Xbox is certainly looking positive. More power, mass integration with other devices, greater immersive experiences and a decent update to their entertainment centre.  Again, the document is slightly old, but given recent announcement at E3, they are certainly going for it! There is so much information, I encourage you to read the document, then go watch the Xbox E3 keynote below (go from 46mins for Xbox Smart Glass). 

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