Friday, March 19, 2010

New Xbox 360 Motherboard Means New Version of Console Coming

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Pictures of a new version  of the motherboard that powers the Xbox 360 code named 'Valhalla' have leaked and from what it shows it means a new version of the console is on it's way.  As I speculated in a previous blog entry Microsoft should do away with the proprietary memory cards, and the new motherboard shows that Microsoft has done exactly that.  A software update is adding USB flash drive support to current Xbox 360's. Microsoft has added a optical SPDIF output so there is no need for the HDMI cable with the breakout box to get an optical audio output.  The picture from the Engadget page shows a couple metal contained boxes marked 'not sure' could just some other jacks or could potentially be RF shielding for onboard WiFi, and standard Bluetooth.  It would be nice for Microsoft to do away with the separate WiFi adapter, and the proprietary wireless headsets.

While Microsoft has been beating Sony on the lowering cost of the console alone, the big boys from Richmond have been losing on total cost of ownership since PS3 owners get WiFi as standard equipment and can use standard Bluetooth headsets that cost less than half than the wireless headsets for the Xbox 360.  While the use of proprietary accessories has kept players buying Microsoft hardware and accessories, it's now starting to cost Microsoft customers.  Since some of the last generations stragglers are starting to upgrade from their PS2's and have chosen to to upgrade to a Playstation 3 since the price drop on that console.

Adding a great big honkin' heat sink and fan is proof that Microsoft is taking cooling a lot more seriously, but could be admitting fault with previous 360's and could potentially open themselves up to a class action lawsuit, since after five different versions of the motherboard and RROD's are still happening.

With a smaller motherboard coming, will that mean a smaller console is coming, potentially yes.  Going to a slot loading DVD drive similar to what Nintendo uses on the Wii would be a good way to reduce the size of the console.  Using an off the SATA laptop hard drive, instead of that hard drive wrapped in that proprietary hunk of plastic would be another excellent way to shave inches off the size of the console. 

The last question that remains to be asked is when will it be available in stores, probably about the same time that Project Natal is available at the end of the year would be a good guess.  Let's hope that Microsoft has an answer at E3 in about three months from now.

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