Microsoft Plans New Xbox Console to Get Early Start in Next-Gen Battle16 Feb, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi
Microsoft isn't about to let Sony get another head start in the next round of the video game war. It has told publishers that Xbox Next (working title) will ship in fall 2005. Microsoft believes a jump start on the next wave of hardware will give Xbox a better chance at capturing a mass-market audience.
According to sources, Sony's PlayStation 3 won't hit retail shelves until 2006, as Sony wants to continue to push sales of its PS2 hardware and software, and the technology and manufacturing for the system won't be in place until then.
Sony had a one-year lead on both Xbox and GameCube in the current video game battle, and it hurt both Microsoft and Nintendo, who have been playing catch-up ever since. Sony has a U.S. installed base of 22.3 million PS2s, while Microsoft has 7.8 million Xboxes and Nintendo has 6.9 million GameCubes. PS2 has outsold Xbox 5 to 1.
Cost is another important factor in the iteration of Xbox, according to a report in The San Jose Mercury News. Microsoft wants to keep the price of Xbox Next low, and the system may not be backwards-compatible with current Xbox software. This is in stark contrast to the business model Sony has taken with its PlayStation consoles. Nintendo also has not made its consoles backward-compatible.
The new Xbox may also shelve the hard-disc drive that the original has. Unless Sony includes a disc drive in PS3 (and for PS2, it is shipping a $99 add-on disc drive, so that's unlikely), Microsoft will use flash memory to store games and data, rather than the 8GB disc drive in the current model.
Inside the new Xbox will be three IBM-designed 64-bit microprocessors, which will give the console more power than most PCs today. Microsoft has opted for an ATI Technologies graphics chip that will allow video game resolution to equal that of high-definition TV. The console will have 256MB of dynamic RAM, compared to the current Xbox's 64MB.
According to P.J. McNealy, senior analyst at American Technology Research, Microsoft will cut the price of Xbox to $129 between now and May and could then further reduce the hardware cost to $99 by Labor Day. Sony is also expected to drop the price of its PS2 hardware this year, but only one drop is expected, and it's likely to fall to between $129 and $149. Video game analyst John Taylor with Arcadia Research doesn't believe Xbox will hit $99 this year.