Feeds

Microsoft ‘takes hard drive out’ of Xbox 2

Flash supplier spills the beans

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Microsoft's tie-in with Flash memory specialist M-Systems has led some observers to conclude that the software giant plans to ship its upcoming Xbox 2 console without a hard drive.

Well, that is indeed the case, if comments from M-Systems' CEO, Dov Moran, are anything to go by. Interviewed this week by Israeli business paper Globes, he said:

"Microsoft has taken the hard disk out of its Xbox. The only thing left will be a CD - that's all. At some point, when users want to save their email messages, copy music, or anything like that, the only storage they'll have is what we give them."

It's worth pointing out that this doesn't imply that the Xbox 2's hard drive will be replaced with Flash.

Moran also confirmed that Microsoft will begin manufacturing the console next year. "We'll start supply only in 2005," he said. The supply deal is worth hundreds of millions to M-Systems, He added, "spread over a few years, and we'll be the main supplier for it; and I hope the sole supplier."

If his claim correctly reflects Microsoft's Xbox 2 plan, it suggests the company wants to adopt a more console-like approach (as Xbox Next/Xbox 2 speculation has mooted previously).

It is often suggested, for example, that Xbox 2 will be a broader home entertainment system than its predecessor, providing Media Center PC-style functionality as well as gaming. The snag with this idea is that such functionality is already provided by... well, Media Center PCs, for a start. While Microsoft may want to pitch such a version of Xbox at PC-free households, any family sufficiently interested in buying such a console will almost have a PC in any case, and thus be better pitch for a higher-margin Media Center PC.

We can imagine Microsoft expanding Xbox's capabilities this way, but more as a PSX-like update to the current Xbox than the next generation of the console.

The current Xbox has a hard drive because it's essentially a PC. That's the case partly because Microsoft is wedded to the platform, but mostly because it was the cheapest way of entering the market. Using broadly off-the-shelf parts is less expensive than developing hardware from scratch. Software development is likewise less costly because it derives from a well-established platform. Much better to test the market as cheaply as possible and, if the foray proves successful, design future generations from the ground up, choosing hardware best-suited to the application in hand.

Hence the use of a non-x86 processor, IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 family, and the decision to drop the largely unnecessary - for most users - hard drive. Microsoft is confident that it has enough market share to bring games developers with it. And while the hardware may change radically, the software APIs almost certainly will stay the same.

This all points to a console that (like almost all of those before it) is built from the bottom up to deliver a powerful gaming experience, and not to a general-purpose personal computing device. ®

Related Stories

Xbox 2 to sport three 64-bit IBM chips, ATI R500
Microsoft wants non-standard media for Xbox 2?
Xbox 2 to get 65nm CPU
First 65nm IBM PowerPC chip to be dual-core
IBM fabs 90nm G5 using strained silicon
Microsoft picks IBM as Xbox 2 processor partner
Microsoft looks to SiS for Xbox 2 I/O chips
ATI confirms Xbox 2 win
Nintendo to ship GameCube 2 in '2005-6' - official

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.