Of Infinium's Phantom
Not vapourware, but not really a console either
A lengthy article on tech news site Newsforge suppliers considerable detail about the system and its business model. The latter focuses entirely on delivering existing content over secure channels rather than promoting development of exclusive content for the system.
At least $25 million of venture capital has been pumped into the project and its creator, Infinium Labs; the end result appears to be essentially a Windows XP PC with no CD or floppy drive, running an assortment of proprietary software to provide encryption for data on the hard drive and secure downloading of content across broadband networks.
According to Newsforge, no final specification or price point for the system has yet been set - but a $400 price point is currently being mooted, and the suggestion is that the PC in the Phantom box will be in the 2GHz performance range, more than enough to handle most modern PC games capably.
The Phantom business model sees Infinium maintaining a library of games which are available secure over broadband to those who have bought or are renting the console. To this end the company claims to have attracted interest from over 500 game publishers - although no details of any sign-ups have been announced yet.
Core to this model is the security systems employed by the console; if Infinium can indeed offer PC games over a completely secure channel, that's an attractive proposition to publishers who are currently resigned to very high rates of piracy of their PC titles.
But it remains to be seen if Phantom can gain a foothold in the marketplace. The system will clearly still suffer from major problems that afflict the PC with regard to compatibility and stability, something which those used to console games may not accept. Wisely, Infinium doesn't seem to be targeting the platform at the console heartland occupied by the Xbox and the PS2, but is instead seemingly aiming at an older and more family-oriented demographic; however, those within that demographic are quite likely to want a fully-functional PC, rather than a cut-down PC that can only play games.
Phantom is certainly an interesting project, and the enthusiasm of Infinium founder Tim Roberts is very clear from his comments to Newsforge. However, the console manufacturers are unlikely to be greatly troubled by this venture, and we maintain our viewpoint that the ultimate victor here is Microsoft, who far from seeing Infinium as a competitor, will be receiving a license fee for Windows XP from every Phantom device sold.