In the last twenty-four hours, a top secret Microsoft document has been leaked and just as quickly un-leaked. The 56-page document goes into good detail describing the next generation entertainment console from the company.
The reason that we refer to the product as an entertainment console is that Microsoft is ambitiously attempting to be the complete solution controlling your free time in the living room. The console’s name is Xbox 720, and is rumored to be potentially available for the holiday season in 2013.
What does the Xbox 720 have to offer? Well, it promises to have support for Blu-ray playback, high-definition and 3-D video quality, and integrated PVR functionality. It proposes to also have five different power modes, ranging from ‘standby’ to ‘full power’. This architecture matches what Microsoft is doing with their Windows 8 feature-set; that is, the system is designed to always be left on.
The system is also promising to deliver the next version of the hands-free Kinect interface. The next iteration of Kinect is working towards four player simultaneous activity, a more accurate sensor for full body motion, and higher-quality RGB camera. The controller that was originally designed to combat Nintendo Wii’s motion sensitive remote is now potentially seen by Microsoft as the voice activated gateway into their proprietary entertainment system.
Perhaps one of the most interesting sections of the document goes into detail about part of the system named ‘Fortaleza’. This project somehow ties together the new Kinect interface with some sort of virtual reality interface. The specifications speak to the VR interface being housed in Wi-Fi enabled glasses. Exactly how or what is delivered to these glasses and how it relates to the alternate reality of what’s being presented on the system at the time is still a mystery. There may be some sort of connection to content being delivered from the cloud.
There is no discussion about download only content such as games being piped directly to the Xbox 720. In theory, however, if Microsoft were to harness the ability to deliver high-quality game content from the cloud, that could change the way that games are bought and sold as updates and service packs would be taken out of the hands of the end-user and left to the content provider.
The system may also include digital rights management software intended to work in tandem with user subscriptions to Hulu or Netflix, and some sort of protection layer that prevents used games from being played on the system. (Though this would create an interesting question of how to deal with the issue of backwards compatibility with old Xbox 360 games.)
When asked to comment about the Xbox 720, Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata Said that he was not worried about how their new console, the Wii U, would compete against it.
The price point for the Microsoft console is speculated to be around $299. This includes the Kinect 2 hardware, with the estimation that the product lifecycle will be somewhere around ten years and 100 million units sold.
It will be interesting to see what other information comes from Microsoft where the new console is concerned over the next 18 months.