Microsoft Confirms Next Xbox To Use 64-Bit IBM Processors

After only four years on the market, there may be a new Xbox in town come Fall 2005. According to an article at the San Jose Mercury News, the next Xbox will be based on a 64-bit processor designed by IBM. Not one of these processors, not two, but three of them. In addition to the trio of IBM processors, the new Xbox will feature a top-of-the-line graphics chip provided by ATI. The kicker? The next Xbox may not be backwards compatible with the original Xbox, leaving behind a large library of games. Microsoft claims that making it backwards compatible may be too expensive. From the Mercury News:

For gamers, the new Xbox will be impressive, giving them the ability to play fast-action, realistic 3-D games on a high-definition TV set. Microsoftis emissaries have told industry developers and publishers that the next Xbox will be ready to launch in fall 2005 with the following specifications:

*?Three IBM-designed 64-bit microprocessors. The combined power of these chips means the Xbox Next will have more computing power than most personal computers. Earlier versions of these PowerPC chips are used in Apple Computeris high-end G5 PowerMac machines now.

*?A graphics chip designed by ATI Technologies with speeds much faster than its upcoming R400 chip for the personal computer. This chip will help the next Xbox to display games with the resolution of high-definition TV.

*?Compatibility with the original Xbox, which is based on Intel and Nvidia chips, isnit guaranteed. Microsoft is concerned it would cost too much money in hardware or in licensing fees to enable the Xbox Next to play old Xbox games. This is risky in part because Sonyis strategy has been to maintain compatibility with its old consoles.

The article goes on to look at some of the features that Microsoft may or may not add, depending on whether or not Sony adds the same features to its Playstation 3, which Microsoft hopes to beat to the market:

Microsoft is leaving itself wiggle room to react to competitive moves by Sony and Nintendo. A few details are to be decided. In contrast with the current Xbox, the next one will have no hard disk drive -- unless Sony puts one in the PlayStation 3. Instead, the console will rely on flash memory to store saved games and permanent data, much like the current PlayStation 2.

The machine also will have about 256 megabytes of dynamic random access memory. But Microsoft will upgrade that to 512 megabytes if Sony puts in more. The previous Xbox had 64 megabytes. And lastly, it isnit clear if Microsoft will include the current DVD video technology or Blu-Ray, its successor. Blu-Ray will hold much more data, but itis unclear when it will be ready for market.

The current Xbox has an eight-gigabyte hard disk drive. That drive is useful for online games and storing game art, but many developers chose not to make use of it. As a result, Microsoft seems to have decided that saving the $50 the hard drive costs outweighs its benefits.

You can read the full article at the Mercury Newsi Web site.