Microsoft Xbox 360

Xbox 360

360 brings an entertainment console that does more than just games

It's been well known since the beginning of Microsoft's involvement in the console market they were in for a long haul and would likely release a follow up to the Xbox - . With the relative success of the Xbox a follow up Xbox was expected but perhaps not so soon. The move to release Xbox 360 before their biggest competitor Sony releases the PS3, is seen as a tactical one by many analysts. PS2, the one console Microsoft couldn't overcome in terms of sales and overall third party developer support was released before the Xbox. This was viewed as giving the PS2 critical momentum before Xbox's release.

This time, Microsoft will try to steal the momentum from Sony before it can release PS3. History demonstrates, however, that a first release doesn't necessarily result in market dominance. The ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, released a full year before its nearest competitor Sony PlayStation2, failed to achieve any momentum over its new-to-the-industry rival Sony back in 1999. The failure of the Dreamcast caused Sega to drop out of the games hardware altogether.

Xbox 360 is poised to be a processing powerhouse. That its hardware eclipses any console that has come before is no surprise. The real measure of 360 is in its forward- thinking design and eye for integration with every conceivable type of media today. Xbox 360 is a system designed with the future of home entertainment, seamlessly integrating with the digital household. 360's optical storage can play DVD Video, DVD-ROM, DVD R/RW, R/RW, CD-DA, CD, CD R/RW. A detachable (upgradeable) 20Gig hard drive stores and plays digital media like photos, TV shows and movies all in glorious full HD resolutions using VC1, WMVHD formats.

Xbox 360 comes with built- in Media Center Extender for XP Media Center Edition 2005. It will be able to rip CDs to the hard drive and store your music collection. With available Ethernet and optional wireless Ethenet capabilities, Xbox 360 connects to your household network and Xbox Live, the world's largest online gaming community. With a sharp eye toward Apple's iTunes market, Microsoft's MSN Music is already a competing online music store, and it's likely only a matter of time before Xbox 360 is able to purchase music directly from Microsoft's own online music retailer.

The Xbox 360 aspires to be more than a gaming machine but a complete digital media center. This fact has some critics of Xbox 360 and supporters of Sony's gaming platforms citing criticisms that Xbox 360 isn't a "real" games platform. This kind of criticism is heard from games developers based in Japan. The island's games industry and valuable games support is likely to remain an enigma to Microsoft through the release of 360.

The hardware specs for gaming are compelling. The Xbox 360's processing power is aimed directly at providing the most realistic full- motion 3D graphics with movie- like speed and rendering. Just take a look at its stunning specifications.

Xbox 360 hardware specs

Hardware Highlights
3 symmetrical IBM Power PC based CPU cores at 3.2 Ghz each.
ATI custom Graphics Processor with 10MB of Dram.
Polygonal performance 500 million triangles per second.
512 MB of 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM.
20G Hard Drive.
12x dual layer DVD Rom.
Multi-channel surround output.
48KHz 16 bit audio.
Total processing power of over 1 teraflop.

A couple of places that might miss the mark in the near future for Xbox 360 areis the lack of an HDMI output and either of the new blue laser optical storage medium, Blu-Ray or HD DVD. To this day, the future of the blue laser optical storage is in doubt. We have no idea which will reign supreme and Microsoft has fewer vested interests than Sony in making a stand on one or the other. Although Microsoft has weighted in with support of the HD DVD format it couldn't afford to put one into the 360 and keep it affordable to the mass market. Microsoft has no reason to gamble on the future of optical storage when it looks like DVD is going to be around for a while as the blue laser formats fight it out.

Xbox 360's lack of a true HDCP compliant digital output is a little less understandable. HDMI has always been a clear successor to DVI and should have been included in the Xbox 360. But with that one minor quibbles aside, HDMI isn't needed for true HD video and isn't likely to offer any benefit over HDMI in terms of video quality.

Xbox 360 is shaping up to be not only a major peripheral in the future of home entertainment, it might even be elevated to the status of driving force in digital home media.