Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Microsoft unveils enhanced Xbox 360 Elite

Well this is a very interesting article, it could really give Sony some Trouble with market share, and I really like this idea Internet Protocol-based TV (IPTV), as it could open the doors for a lot of media gaining access to people.

One Thing I know for sure it will be fun to watch what happens, it looks like Microsoft and Sony are heading towards a good fight, and the consumer I think is going to be the winner.

Let me know what you think, will it be Sony or Microsoft that wins the console battle?

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday took the wraps off of the Xbox 360 Elite, confirming weeks of intense speculation that it would release a new version of its flagship video game console.

The upgraded machine is to launch April 29 in the United States, sporting features not found on the two existing versions of the console, including a 120 gigabyte hard drive, high-definition media interface (HDMI) port and cable, and a black finish instead of the white one on current versions, Microsoft said. It will not include a high-definition HD-DVD hard drive.

The package will also come with a black wireless controller and headset, and sell for about $480 US.

Canada will be included in the initial launch period according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, but specific dates and pricing were not immediately available.

"Today's games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content," Peter Moore, corporate vice president for Microsoft's interactive entertainment division said in a written statement. "Xbox 360 Elite's larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer."

Speculation rampant for weeks
Rumours and photos of the new model have been spurring heavy speculation on internet video game and gadget discussion forums for weeks but Microsoft would not offer direct comment.

"It is our standard policy to not comment on speculation," Jeremy Bartram, a spokesman with Microsoft's public relations agency in Seattle, told CBC News Online when asked for official comment on the rumours. "Microsoft has not announced anything regarding a new Xbox 360."

Microsoft's Canadian spokespeople made a similar statement in response to CBC's inquiries.

Photos of the console and advertising for its 120 GB hard drive had surfaced on the internet in recent days. One set of images on a Chinese-language website depicted units of the new console coming off an assembly line in a Chinese factory. An image published on the Xbox 360 Fanboy website on Monday is apparently a shot of a poster promoting the new hard drive.

Microsoft targeting Sony: experts
The refreshed console is a significant improvement on the existing versions, and surpasses rival Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 3 console on some features, according to observers who spoke to CBC News Online.

The current Xbox 360, moulded in white plastic, comes in two versions. The Premium version includes a 20 GB hard drive but no HDMI connector and retails in Canada for about $500. A lower-priced Core version sells without the hard drive and several accessories for about $400.

Sony sells two versions of its PlayStation 3 console, both of which include a high-definition Blu-Ray DVD drive built-in. The premium version of the console, which has a 60 GB hard drive, sells for about $660 in Canada, while a version with a 20 GB hard drive is priced at about $550. Neither includes an HDMI connector cable.

"A 120 [GB] hard drive versus 60 [GB] on the PS3 sounds like penis envy on the part of Microsoft," Michael Pachter, director of research at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, Calif., said ahead of Wednesday's announcement.

Analysts divided
Ruminations about whether the new Xbox unit would come with a HDMI connector cable were clarified by the announcement.

"One thing I'm pretty confident is wrong [about the reports] is that it includes a HDMI cable," he said, explaining he had recently bought one for $300 US. "It's frickin' expensive, which is why the PS3 doesn't come with one, and Microsoft doesn't have the buying power to make it cheap."

Eddie Chan, an analyst with market research firm IDC Canada, disagreed.

"The HDMI cable is a non-issue in my books," he said, explaining that bridging the gap between an analog signal and a superior digital signal is a logical step.

The price is just a function of how "clean" a signal you want, and most people are not going to shell out for a top-quality cable that has low electrical resistance (and therefore a better signal) for what they may see as a marginal improvement on picture quality, he explained.

"Sure, you can pay $300 for a Monster [brand cable] and lower-priced cables have more resistance, but you can get one for cheap — $10 or $20," Chan said.

Device sets stage for IPTV
"It would not surprise me to see a new console come to fruition," he added, noting that Microsoft has been talking about Internet Protocol-based TV (IPTV), which would use internet technology to stream a video signal across a data network such as Microsoft's Xbox Live. "It's probably a good segue in preparation for those rollouts."

In a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division, made remarks that some say hinted at the new console.

"I can play the best next-generation games, download movies and TV shows, connect to my Windows PC, and access my music and my photos, watch HD-DVDs, and now experience next-generation TV programs with IPTV," or Internet Protocol TV, Bach said. "This is everything I want, it's all in one box, it's all on Xbox 360."

"It's pretty self-evident what the strategy is," Sam Punnett, president of Toronto-based FAD Research Inc., said about Microsoft's approach. "It's reminiscent of the walled garden idea — they have a sufficient claim to a captive audience that they can create an environment to sell content."

Punnett, who has been a consultant to federal and provincial governments on developing strategies that would foster new media and video game industries in Canada, noted that Microsoft has a unique advantage over competitors.

"They have that channel into the living room that no one else has," he said. "They can take that captive audience and branch it off … and expand into music services, streaming video. It's one of those [Holy] Grail dreams of the games industry."

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