The battle has begun. Microsoft last night confirmed the launch of its next generation console to be called the Xbox 360 for this Christmas.
Also confirmed are the leaked images and photos of the console that have been floating around the web for the last couple of weeks. The console will be white and sleek, feature wireless connectivity for controllers and other consoles, have a removable 20Gb hard drive and built in HD DVD playback facility.
The front panel houses a disc drawer, two memory card slots, an infra-red receiver for an optional remote control, the power button and two covered USB ports.
Inside and the Xbox is a huge leap forward in technology on current gaming systems. The 360 will sport three processors running at 3.2Ghz and a 1Mb L2 cache. Graphics are provided by ATI and will be an ATI 500MHz graphics processor and 512Mb of RAM
The controller will be powered by AA batteries, although it is expected in the future to have rechargeable options available. The main addition to the previous controller is something that Microsoft is calling the Ring of Light: Divided into four quadrants, the glowing Ring of Light Button will allow you to visually connect you to your games, digital media and the world of Xbox Live. Featured on both the wireless and wired controllers, the Xbox Guide Button will also let you turn the system on and off without ever leaving the couch.
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On the games front, Microsoft has promised that all games launched on the console will be Hi-Def ready, be presented in 16:9 ratio and be multichannel surround sound compatible.
Game titles already slated for the November release are: Call of Duty 2, Quake 4
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland,Madden NFL 06, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Ghost Recon 3, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, The Darkness, NBA 2K6, Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, Project Gotham Racing 3, Gears of War, Saint's Row
The console will also be able to double up as a media linkyou're your telelvision rather similar to a host of players currently on the market from network companies like Linksys and D-Link. Connecting the Xbox 360 to your home network with a cable, or by a small WiFi adapter means you can stream music, video and pictures from one to the other.
Microsoft is also promising the ability to connect MP3 players and digital cameras via the USB socket on the front of the machine to directly view or play images on the 360.
An upgraded version of Xbox Live, Microsoft's online service, will also let you stream that music or those pictures to friends with the console.
The new version of Xbox Live will be much more robust allowing gamers to video chat with the 360's optional camera and feature an online marketplace that will allow you to download new game trailers and demos and purchase new content.
As predicted Xbox Live will come in two varieties. All 360's will come with Xbox Live Silver for free, while Xbox Live Gold will require a subscription.
Silver will let you play games online on weekends, but not during the week and will let you track and chat with friends online. You can also access a marketplace to purchase games and download demos through the Silver edition.
Gold however will offer you unlimited access to the service. Both versions will also support a more robust set of parental controls that will allow you to manage friends lists, file sharing and marketplace purchases.
We are still waiting to find out if current Xbox game will be able to play on the 360 and the price of the console.UPDATE:
The company also announced Xbox 360 will be backward-compatible with top-selling Xbox games. In addition, more than 160 games are in development for Xbox 360, with 25 to 40 games slated for release this calendar year. All are optimized for high-definition output (720p and 1080i)UPDATE:
The specs and features in full:
# An IBM PowerPC-based CPU with three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz each, packing the most advanced AI and physics processing available
# A custom ATI Graphics processor and more than 512 MB of memory for high-definition games and entertainment applications
# All games optimized for 16:9 aspect ratio, HD output (720p and 1080i), multichannel surround sound output, and full-screen anti-aliasing
# Detachable and expandable 20GB hard drive to download demos and trailers along with new game levels, maps, weapons, vehicles, skins, community-created content and more, to rip music for playback and to listen to custom playlists in every game
# A wireless controller with Microsoft®-patented wireless technology; Xbox Guide Button on every controller to instantly connect gamers to their games, friends and music, and to power on or power off Xbox 360 without their having to leave the couch
# Gamer Profile software that remembers what players have achieved in games
# Instant, out-of-the-box access to Xbox Live , including a built-in Ethernet port for connectivity; Xbox Live Marketplace for downloadable content; a Message Center to receive voice and video messages from friends; functionality that let users talk to friends, even while watching movies or listening to music; and an Xbox Live Headset
# Three USB 2.0 ports for Xbox Live Camera peripheral, to plug in wired game controllers that are also common for Windows®-based PCs; to stream media from a portable media device, digital camera and Windows XP-based PC
# Progressive-scan DVD movie playback out of the box; DVD and CD music and photo playback out of the box; support for DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, Windows Media® Audio CD, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD
# Media Center Extender built in to access recorded TV (including high-definition TV) and digital movies (including high-definition film), music, video and photos stored on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005-based PCs through any Xbox 360 system
# Support for up to four wireless game controllers and an optional Universal Media Remote with Windows XP Media Center Edition Button for Media Center Edition functionality
# Support for Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adapter via 802.11b, g and a
# Interactive, full-screen 3-D visualizers
# Two memory unit ports to save data on portable memory units, starting at 64 MB
# Detachable Face so each console can be personalized
# Parental Controls to help restrict the games and movies that are played; Xbox Live controls to manage Friends List, voice and video communication, and Gamer Profile sharing