It’s that time of decade again. Time for a new Xbox. It took four years for Microsoft to go from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360. The transition from Xbox 360 to the newly announced Xbox One will take right around 8 years, and the 360 won’t be going away anytime soon either. The console business demands long upgrade cycles in order to make early investments in hardware (often sold at a loss) worthwhile. This last round was much longer that it ever should have been, so the Xbox One arrives to a very welcoming crowd.

Yesterday Microsoft finally took the covers off the new Xbox, what it hopes will last for many years to come. At a high level here’s what we’re dealing with:

- 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU
- 12 CU/768 SP AMD GCN GPU
- 8GB DDR3 system memory
- 500GB HDD
- Blu-ray drive
- 2.4/5.0GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n, multiple radios with WiFi Direct support
- 4K HDMI in/out (for cable TV passthrough)
- USB 3.0
- Available later this year

While Microsoft was light on technical details, I believe we have enough to put together some decent analysis. Let’s get to it.

Chassis

The Xbox 360 was crafted during a time that seems so long ago. Consumer electronics styled in white were all the rage, we would be a few years away from the aluminum revolution that engulfs us today. Looking at the Xbox One tells us a lot about how things have changed.

Microsoft isn’t so obsessed with size here, at least initially. Wired reports that the Xbox One is larger than the outgoing 360, although it’s not clear whether we’re talking about the new slim or the original design. Either way, given what’s under the hood - skimping on cooling and ventilation isn’t a good thing.

The squared off design and glossy black chassis scream entertainment center. Microsoft isn’t playing for a position in your games cabinet, the Xbox One is just as much about consuming media as it is about playing games.

In its presentation Microsoft kept referencing how the world has changed. Smartphones, tablets, even internet connectivity are very different today than they were when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005. It’s what Microsoft didn’t mention that really seems to have played a role in its decision making behind the One: many critics didn’t see hope for another generation of high-end game consoles.

With so much of today focused on mobile, free to play and casual gaming on smartphones and tablets - would anyone even buy a next-generation console? For much of the past couple of years I’ve been going around meetings saying that before consolidation comes great expansion. I’ve been saying this about a number of markets, but I believe the phrase is very applicable to gaming. Casual gaming, the advent of free to play and even the current mobile revolution won’t do anything to the demand for high-end consoles today or in the near term - they simply expand the market for gamers. Eventually those types of games and gaming platforms will grow to the point where they start competing with one another and then the big console players might have an issue to worry about, but I suspect that’s still some time away. The depth offered by big gaming titles remains unmatched elsewhere. You can argue that many games are priced too high, but the Halo, BioShock, Mass Effect, CoD experience still drives a considerable portion of the market.

The fact that this debate is happening however has to have impacted Microsoft. Simply building a better Xbox 360 wasn’t going to guarantee success, and I suspect there were not insignificant numbers within the company who felt that even making the Xbox One as much of a gaming machine as it is would be a mistake. What resulted was a subtle pivot in strategy.

The Battle for the TV

Last year you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a rumor of Apple getting into the TV business. As of yet those rumors haven’t gone anywhere other than to point to continued investment in the Apple TV. Go back even further and Google had its own TV aspirations, although met with far less success. More recently, Intel threw its hat into the ring. I don’t know for sure how things have changed with the new CEO, but as far as I can tell he’s a rational man and things should proceed with Intel Media’s plans for an IPTV service. All of this is a round about way of saying that TV is clearly important and viewed by many as one of the next ecosystem battles in tech.

Combine the fact that TV is important, with the fact that the Xbox 360 has evolved into a Netflix box for many, add a dash of uncertainty for the future of high end gaming consoles and you end up with the formula behind the Xbox One. If the future doesn’t look bright for high-end gaming consoles, turning the Xbox into something much more than that will hopefully guarantee its presence in the living room. At least that’s what I suspect Microsoft’s thinking was going into the Xbox One. With that in mind, everything about the One makes a lot of sense.

CPU & GPU Hardware Analyzed
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  • cbrownx88 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Negative - they have an exclusive "launch on xbox FIRST" deal... No way EA would allow those franchises to be exclusive Reply
  • Friendly0Fire - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Ghosts only has timed exclusivity on DLC. The game will see simultaneous release on all platforms. Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    What are you smoking? It's news but not surprising that EA is dumping the Wii U, but the PS4? That would be insane. And in fact, such a thing has not happened.

    Same with COD:G. AQll of the ones you have mentioned are cross-platform.
    Reply
  • blacks329 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Here is what is exclusive regarding EA Sports titles and CoD Ghosts.

    X1 will receive the Ultimate Teams feature exclusively. They haven't mentioned what that is. But the games themselves will release simultaneously on 360, PS3, X1, PS4 (assuming the last two arrive before the sports title is released).

    X1 will receive the CoD Ghosts DLC pack first, before it is released on PS4. Similarly to how it has been with every release of COD this gen for the past few years. CoD Ghosts will release simultaneously on 360, PS3, X1 and PS4.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I'm personally waiting to see someone strip Xbox OS from this and stick plain-old Windows on it. This might make a good HTPC without having to deal with any sort of specialized OS Reply
  • geniekid - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    That was one of the main draws of the PS3 until they removed the ability to run Linux on it. Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Already has the Metro part of plain Windows. Reply
  • epobirs - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    Why bother? You can build a mini-ITX HTPC using an AMD APU right now for less than the XO will likely cost at launch. I'm building a mini-ITX system right now that is thus far not breaking the bank. (To be fair, I got the Core i7-3770K for an unusually low price but I'd have settled for a low-power A10 model for about the same price and lower cost on the motherboard.) In fact, by taking it slow and gathering parts as deals come along, it has totaled remarkably little so far.

    I suspect Newegg has my phone bugged. Whenever I mention in a conversation not being able to find a good price on a particular needed item, I seem to get an email within hours with a sale on that item.
    Reply
  • Chad Boga - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Why didn't Microsoft simply match the PS4's GPU capabilities? If they had, surely they then could have finished off Sony for good.

    Now Sony has a chance to once again become the premier gaming console.

    Microsoft has got so much wrong in the last decade and it looks like this is just a continuation of these stuff ups.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    I think it's so that they can bundle Kinect at a competitive cost. Reply

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