Seems like just about everyone (except Microsoft) is talking about some aspect of a new Xbox or Xbox experience lately, from Microsoft Points to powerful new processors to lots of speculation (and, we assume, a few wild guesses) about when we’ll see a new version, or new versions, of Microsoft’s gaming and entertainment console.
First, InsideMobileApps.com, “according to a source with knowledge of the company’s decision”, reported that Microsoft is apparently set to phase out Microsoft Points by the end of the year. Microsoft Points, used by Xbox Live, Windows Phone, Games for Windows – Live, and Zune, came about in an attempt to keep down the costs of credit card transactions, both for consumers, and for publishers and Microsoft themselves. Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg explained, as noted in a 2007 1Up.com blog post (referenced by WikiPedia):
"The reason why we do that, the core reason, is around credit card transaction fees," said Greenberg. "If we do this in bulk, we don’t have to burden the consumer with the transaction fees, or ourselves or publishers. It’s about keeping infrastructure costs down and I know sometimes it’s frustrating because you end up with odd points, but we don’t have any plans to change that."
Of course that was in 2007, before the likes of the Apple App Store and Android’s Marketplace changed the game, and it may indeed be time for Microsoft Points to fade away.
Then, a slew of rumors surfaced about a possible new Xbox “720”. IGN.com and SemiAccurate.com reported on rumors that a new Xbox “Oban” PowerPC chip is currently in limited production, with full production coming by the end of the year and pinning a release date for a new version Xbox in “October or November” of 2103.
Then Kotaku.com published some additional “news” about the new console: that it will support Blu-Ray discs, that it could include some kind of “anti-used game system”, and that a new version of Kinect would be built into the new console:
One source familiar with Microsoft’s plans for the new Xbox said Microsoft plans to ship their new Xbox with a new version of its red-hot Kinect hands-free sensor system. The new Kinect would contain an on-board processor, a feature originally intended for the first Kinect. That processor would enable a new Kinect to more effectively detect users’ motions.
Kotaku is also hearing that “Microsoft is interested in making a smaller controller for its new console”.
We’ve reported recently that Microsoft could also be working on some kind of a “Kinect Box”, and Xbox-lite type console that would be aimed at the connected TV / entertainment market, and could be ready by this next holiday season. In that scenario, Microsoft would be able to position itself well against the likes of Apple, who are rumored to be coming out with a new “Apple TV” this year, and Google, who have a set top box of their own. Microsoft is still riding strong sales for the Xbox 360, with 66 million Xboxes sold to date, and the Kinect, with over 18 million sold, numbers that helped Microsoft beat expectations in its latest quarterly earnings report.