Following Microsoft’s confirmation that the next Xbox will be unveiled on May 21, Redmond-watcher Paul Thurrott revealed Thursday what users can expect from the next console, codenamed “Durango.”
Windows 8 Core
The next Xbox will be based on Windows 8, which is not surprising considering Microsoft’s desire to unify its platforms with a common operating system. Many are hopeful that sharing a common underlying OS means that developers will have an easy way to port their Metro-style apps to the new console.
Only One Xbox
Rumors about a media-only Xbox-branded device, codenamed “Yuma,” have swirled for months, but Mr. Thurrott states that plans for such a device are on hold and it is uncertain when (or if) a media-only Xbox will emerge.
Microsoft backed the failed HD-DVD format with an optional external drive for movie playback on the Xbox 360. Sony’s PS3, released a year later, went with a built-in Blu-ray drive; an unsurprising move considering that Sony was the primary backer of the Blu-ray format. The decision gave the PS3 two advantages: 1) it was a capable and affordable Blu-ray movie player out of the box, and 2) games written for the console could be stored on Blu-ray discs, giving them significantly more room for textures, videos, and audio than their Xbox 360 counterparts, which were limited to DVD storage.
With the next Xbox, Mr. Thurrott confirms that it will indeed have an internal Blu-ray drive, allowing console purchasers to enjoy HD Blu-ray movies and giving developers more room to work with when creating their games.
Always-On Internet Connection
Some bad PR aside, it looks like the next Xbox will indeed require an Internet connection in order to operate in any significant capacity. We’re still not sure if that means that playing games and using apps requires a connection, but, say, watching a Blu-ray disc doesn’t, or if truly all functionality will be disabled without an active connection. We’ll have to wait for Microsoft to clarify.
Microsoft’s breakthrough motion- and voice-control interface was optional on the Xbox 360 with a $150 add-on device. For the next console, Kinect software and hardware will be included by default, although we’ll have to wait and see how Microsoft will integrate the hardware sensors into the product’s design.
Mr. Thurrott tells us that two pricing models will be available for the next Xbox: a standalone $499 version and a discounted $299 version that requires a two-year Xbox LIVE Gold subscription for an expected $10 per month. Xbox LIVE Gold for the Xbox 360 is almost a necessity, providing access to online multiplayer, certain apps, and video services like Netflix. If Microsoft continues to offer the same level of features for Gold members on the next Xbox, then the $299 package will be attractive to most gamers, allowing them to save $200 over two years for a service they’re likely to subscribe to anyway.
The next Xbox, along with the PS4, is expected to launch in time for the holiday shopping season. For context, the Xbox 360 launched November 22, 2005 while the PS4 launched November 11, 2006. Mr. Thurrott’s sources tell him to expect an “early November” launch this time around.
Those hoping for a less expensive gaming option will be happy to know that a revised Xbox 360 console is also on its way. The revised hardware, codenamed “Stingray,” will be priced significantly lower than current Xbox 360 consoles and, due to the evolution of internal components, may be smaller and run cooler than its predecessors, similar to the last revision of the Xbox 360 hardware, the Xbox 360 S in 2010. “Stingray” is expected to launch this year, although its timing relative to the next-gen Xbox launch is unknown.
Microsoft will discuss the details of its next Xbox on Tuesday, May 21 at 1:00 p.m. EST (10:00 a.m. PST). The event will be live streamed at Xbox.com, Xbox LIVE, and on Spike TV in the U.S. and Canada.