Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Microsoft Should Do If They Redesign The Xbox 360

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Once in the lifespan of any video game console system the manufacturer will redesign a system to lower the cost of production, make the system hardware more relabile, or to give it greater appeal to consumers.  At the beginning of the 1990's both Nintendo and Sega redesigned the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System. Both redesigned their 8-bit systems to make them cheaper to build and sell to consumers just as the 16 bit video games era began.  In 1999 just before the Playstation 2 was released to rule the gaming world the original playstation went under the knife and got smaller in size of the system and the price got smaller too. 

In 2004 Sony redesigned the Playstation 2 to make it smaller, but not just because they were replacing it with new system but to give it a competive leg up against Microsoft's original Xbox. Sony made the PS2 smaller by locating the power transformer outside of the box using a wire wart instead.  The hard drive expansion bay was done away with and the drawer loading drive was replaced with a drive that used a fliptop lid similar to the original playstation.  The Ethernet port became standard on the redesigned PS2 no longer an add on.

After a redesign and price drop Sony is now selling more Playstation 3's then they ever have since launching the system in 2006 it's now Microsoft that finds themselves in third place in console sales. Nobody every said that having a big clunky looking machine will doom a game machine to failure but the design was one of the biggest complaints about the original Xbox.  After five years the Xbox is starting to look an update is needed.  What changes will be needed so that Microsoft will be looking forward to success with the Xbox 360 rather than the current trend of gamers jumping ship to the PS3.  Here's just a few of my suggestions:

Dump the memory card slots: Those two slots right next to the disk drive drawer are for a couple of Microsoft's proprietary memory cards for the Xbox 360.  Since adding 256 MB of flash memory to the motherboard of the 360 Arcade has made using these memory card slots unneeded and unused by the vast majority of 360 owners.  This should definately be the first to go.

Go to a slot loading disk drive:  The competing consoles in this generation both have slot loading drives which game disks are inserted.  The old fashioned loading drawer can break off, and after a while can and will fail.  Slot loading disk drives prevent dust from entering the drive mechanism, and the brushes on the slot clean disks as they are being inserted into the drive.  Many Windows PC's as well as just about evey Mac that Apple produces have replaced the drawer load drive with a slot load drive, it's time Microsoft does the same with the 360.

Onboard WiFi:  One of the things that irks 360 owners and PS3 fanboys gloat about is the extra one hundred dollars for the WiFi adapter for the 360 that those unwilling to run ethernet cable have to buy if they want to get onto Xbox live.  Both the Wii and the PS3 have onboard WiFi standard if Microsoft wants to keep the 360 competive then they will have sacrifice the sacred cash cow.

Better ventilation:  Stories from gamers of Xbox 360's overheating and showing a red ring still aboud where gamers meet each other.  Changing to a design similar to that used by Apple's G4 cube where the CPU and GPU chips which create the most heat are placed cloest to the vent at the top of they system and chips that produce little or no heat are placed close to the bottom. 

At least considering these ideas is at least a way of looking forward instead of letting the 360 rest on it's laurels, it may seem like a big choice for the Xbox 360 team at Microsoft, but it really is not.

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