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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  • Krysto - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    Seems like Sony has a winner here in terms of hardware and developer support, too.

    Any idea if PS4 does indeed use the full OpenGL 4.3 as rumored? And is it based on some custom Linux OS?
    Reply
  • powerarmour - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    PS4 will likely run some form of libGCM similar to the PS3, this is another area the PS4 may easily have the upper hand in, software overheads... Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    All pretty much expected on the hardware side of things. And I like it as well, as a non-console gamer (I bought an Xbox 360 for the Kinect to introduce my wife and larger family to gaming... it's mostly left unused, since our living room is on the small side and we need to rearrange a lot to play). The current high end PC should be able to run all the games developed for the consoles very well, which is good. There is less chance of getting rubbish ports since all 3 consoles are so similar. All positives for me as a PC gamer.
    For the software/entertainment side, that doesn't interest me in the least. The Xbox could never be my media hub because I have an A/V receiver for that, as I expect many people do. And all the software stuff, streaming etc. I have my doubts about everything trickling down to the German market as they envision it. Plus, I'm not a TV guy or a rent guy. I like to own my stuff as much as possible.
    Reply
  • Silma - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It seems to me that the Microsoft approach is Superior to the Sony one if One + Kinnect is priced competitively or at not too big a premium with the PS4.

    Sony has a history of hacker-friendly internet platforms and it is often in denial. Would I trust the Playstation Network? No way.

    If consoles become the center of the TV/Entertainment center, if people will really use the console as a Skype terminal or as today use the Kinnect to excercise then I think the Microsoft offering is the more attractive one and that its features will interest buyers more than to know that one console has more shader units than the other.

    In addition, it would not be difficult for Microsoft to extend the Platform with byod features such as Skydrive access, Office 365 and so forth.
    Reply
  • jonjonjonj - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    this annoys the hell out of me. who cares about power. i want performance. i want my console or pc so power hungry it trips a breaker. its obvious everyone wants a kinect instead of a better gpu. right? tv on xbox is useless. so i dont have to hit the input button on my remote? seriously? its not like you get the service from ms. you have to pay for xbox live gold and be a paying cable customer. it offers absolutely nothing. i have 2 360's but i have no plan on my buying this garbage cable box i already have a dvr. ill take that $500+ and buy a 27" 1440p monitor and another video card for sli. ms already proved to me over the past 3 years they don't care about the core gamers anymore and this just reaffirms it. i hope this console fails so miserably. Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    because everyone wants a ps4eyetoy in their ps4 right? instead of a better gpu right?

    Oh wait...ps4 did the same thing.

    Everyone wants a camera with their laptop instead of a better cpu/gpu right? Oh wait...

    In my house hold finding the remote is an issue. Not because we forget but with 8 people in a home, each one grabbing at it at different times, this becomes an issue.

    You have a dvr? great, the xbox is not designed to replace it, in fact its already stated its working along side....any cable box.

    Why do people pay for TiVo? there is a service to be had, and its much better imo than comcasts dvr or the offering by Direct. I was skeptical about TiVo till my damn ex got me hooked on it.

    Not to mention how many times I have to tell my parents the channels of anything other than local news. Now they just have to say...hgtv, animal, history. They don't live with me, but they will be getting one. This is also a plus for me, as my kids don't have to worry about memorizing the channels, even though they do currently.

    Your mentality is what the losers of the tablet wars are facing...

    Why would people want a tablet? I have a laptop, pc, tv, ipod...the list goes on...

    Convenience and easy. This is what x1 is offering, along with cloud computing, dedicated servers, and games games games games
    Reply
  • jonjonjonj - Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - link

    really? sony hasn't announced the pseye is going to be bundled with all ps4's. in fact there are links to sony videos that say "Playstation4 camera may be required and is sold separately". even if it is the ps4 has a 30% faster gpu then xbox so ms should have spent that kinect money on making the gpu more competitive. the 360 already showed kinect was a failure for gaming. unless you are a girl who wants to play dance central there is no reason to get a kinect. this is why bundling the kinect boggles my mind. it shows me ms either doesn't get it or doesn't care if the xbox is a gaming console.

    the best defense of xbox tv you can come up with is you constantly loose your remote? my remote is always in the room with the tv. not very hard to find.

    i know its not going to replace my dvr. that doesn't change the fact that i see zero benefit to using xbox and i still have to pay for my dvr. i forgot you can use voice commands and wave your hands around like an idiot. no thanks ill pass and stick to my remote.

    "games games games games"? i must have missed that part of the conference. when they announce their exclusives at e3 expect them to mostly be kinect and XBLA games not the non kinect AAA games everyone wants. just like they have over the last 3 years.

    i have a ipad and never use it. the only thing its good for is quickly checking email or watching a youtube video. beyond that my laptop or desktop is 10x faster and easier to use. people are buying tablets because it the cool thing to do and everyone already has multiple pc's and laptops. once everyone has a tablet sales will slow down.
    Reply
  • BPB - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    It appears MS has dumped the WMC extender abilities. It's not a surprise, but I don't give two hoots about the DVR overlay. With my HTPC and extenders I save a lot of money not having a DVR. MS wants me to go back to a DVR, and I won't. Given all else it looks like PS4 for me with continued 360 gaming (which MS said will also get updated in some sort of way, won't know till E3 what that means). But pricing and other factors will be part of that equation too. Reply
  • elitewolverine - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    im surprised you hooked up an htpc, considering you have a hard time understanding works along side your cable/dvr via infared. Meaning when you tell it to change the channel it will do so, at your cable box/dvr/htpc. I can understand how something so simple can be confusing... Reply
  • BPB - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    Wow, can't wait till I'm all growed up like you! Then I too can be a jackass.

    I watched the MS presentation live, and have followed many of the MS follow-up discussions about Xbox One. They've mentioned working with cable companies like Comcast for TV overlay, but oddly enough they haven't mentioned working with HTPC's running their own Windows software. Then again maybe they too have a hard time figuring all this out. Please post your phone number or email so MS can contact you and you can set them straight.
    Reply

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