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Xbox 360 to get HD DVD drive

Externally, naturally

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CES Microsoft's XBox 360 will support the HD DVD next-generation optical disc format after all, the company's hardware chief, Robbie Bach, revealed at CES last night.

However, the ability to play the discs will be delivered through a face-saving external drive, shipping at some point this year, Bach said.

Last month, Microsoft said there was no truth to speculation that the company would this year deliver an HD DVD-equipped Xbox 360, and that not decision had yet been made on support for the format. This despite comments from Bill Gates in the summer and, more recently, Microsoft Japan's Xbox chief, that the format would be part of the Xbox 360 plan, if only to allow movie playback rather than as a games medium.

Shipping an external drive allows Microsoft to deliver that functionality without alienating consumer who've purchased that standard, DVD-supporting Xbox 360. Though nothing, we'd note, said by Bach prevents the company offering a special edition 360 with an integrated HD DVD drive in the future. However, we suspect the format will have had to demonstrate strong support in the broader consumer market first. ®

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