Friday, July 22, 2005

Xbox 360: A 1st Look

Dateline: Redmond, Washington

During my visit to Microsoft’s Redmond campus earlier today, I had the opportunity to be briefed by a manager of the eHome division on the Xbox 360 and Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE).

The focus of the briefing was the fact that unlike the original Xbox, Xbox 360 has a full Media Center Extender client built-in, obviating the need for an external add-on, currently $79.99, to connect the Xbox to your Media Center PC. This new built-in functionality also allows you to use the visualization running on the MCE PC on you Xbox 360. Why you would want to do that is another matter.

We were also informed that Xbox 360 would ship out of the gate with customizations for 33 countries. 33! Now I understood why the guy had bags under his eyes. A ‘shorty’ remote, (his own words, not mine), suitable for most of the basic functions of the Xbox 360 including DVD playback, will be the boxed remote for most countries, with a longer remote control unit available at retail. The longer remote control allows for TV tuning and more granular control of the Xbox 360 unit and the MCE PC.

The presenter then connected to a Media Center PC and started showing off some of these capabilities. The wireless controller started the Xbox 360, we saw a few videos, and he demonstrated the new functionality as detailed above.

The only downside is the you would probably need to use the Ethernet interface as opposed to WiFi for streaming a high-def video source through Extender.

The look and feel of the Xbox 360 is as advertised. The system has a more game-y component look to it, a la iPod, and the pre-production model had a fit that was well done. The wireless controllers are comfortable, useful.

Then we got to the game demos!


Ghost Recon 3, the primary demo shown, never looked any better, especially the shots tracking the trajectories of the missiles. Awesome. You cannot wait for the final version of the games. Believe me!

I got to try the Xbox controller and moved around while doing that. System was very responsive and the Xbox 360 seemed to have lots of horsepower left. Then again, we were only playing demos. But the demos, if indicative of the power of the system, which I believe it is, and remember, it is a tri-core CPU, give you the feeling that this system will be all that. And more.

If you couple the design of the Xbox 360, the power of the Xenon CPU, and Xenos GPU, the number of games to be offered at the launch, the beauty and intuitiveness of the User Interface, and the built-in Media Center Extender connectivity, this system is the to-get item for this year’s holiday period.