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What a kludge...
Published on January 10, 2007 By terpfan1980 In XBOX

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So, just before CES started there were rumors that we were gonna find out more about Microsoft's already long-rumored IPTV functionality and DVR functionality that would eventually come to the Xbox 360 system.

Now that the news is coming out on the system, all I can say is WHAT A FRIGGIN' JOKE.

I questioned all along how a box that has no built-in TV tuner or capture card functionality was going to be able to perform DVR functions, and the answers are what I suspected all along -- it won't.  The Xbox 360 won't have the functions, at least not without hooking up to specific (Microsoft calls them "selected partners") vendor's add-on boxes that will live between the TV and the Xbox 360.  Those boxes will perform some magic that is required for this to all come together.  Uh, sounds like what those boxes will be are the TV tuners that aren't there otherwise.  Sounds like those boxes could just as well be the DVR and IPTV boxes on their own, leaving the Xbox 360 as just another unnecessary piece of the equation.

Besides those issues though, there is the issue of disk storage.  Since Microsoft was darned near brain dead when they decided on the original hard drive size and went with a pathetically small 20 gigabyte drive.  While 20 gigabyte is plenty for the game saves and additional content that users may want to download onto their system, the sizes of the demo games, the videos and other content that can be downloaded via Xbox Live quickly eat up the 20 gigabytes of space and leaves nothing behind for TV recordings, especially not HiDef TV recordings (which definitely eat up disc space).

Microsoft apparently has an answer for the hard drive disk space coming in the form of a 120 gigabyte drive that will likely be the new standard when the mid-term refresh, i.e., version 2, codenamed Zephyr, Xbox 360 hits the streets.  Supposedly the hard drive gets upgraded to the 120 gigabyte standard at that time which should open up some space for users to record a few shows (a pathetically few shows given the disk consumption for recording HiDef, but who knows, perhaps Microsoft has broken the laws of physics or at least the laws of compression and they'll find a way to squeeze HiDef content into smaller sizes when it's stored on the local system).

(More on Zephyr in just a bit, trying to stay somewhat on topic here).

Anyway, it seems that what could have been a killer component of Microsoft's dream system for our homes is instead just a big kludge.  I don't blame them for not including HD-DVD drives in the boxes to begin with.  Those drives really weren't ready for prime time when the 360 was on the drawing board.  I don't fault them for not having HDMI support in the system from day one.  Again, not really fleshed out yet, would have added a lot of costs to the system, etc.  But...  over time these add-ons that Microsoft is proposing make the entertainment hub less a hub and more something that is sitting with bunches of add-ons plugged into it.  It'll become a rat's nest of wires and mass of modules that are all needed for some reason or another.

Where's the simplicity of a single console that does it all?  Microsoft tried it previously with their former partner Dish Network and their Dish Players.  They actually weren't that far off.  That system played games (it had You Don't Know Jack, Doom and some other games on it) and worked fairly well as a DVR until code that was buggy just got to creaky to work with and the partners couldn't stop arguing amongst themselves enough to keep it all working properly.

They've shown that they can do some of these things, but they continue to do it in bits and pieces that never quite work right and require additional costs -- and bring additional frustrations -- for the users.  Sorry, but I think personally I'm gonna sit this stuff out and wait until later.

on Jan 10, 2007
I swear, I expected better here, but as usual Microsoft didn't fail to disappoint.
on Jan 10, 2007
Personally I prefer that they decided to do it via add on parts rather than including it all in the box, that way the people that want it can get it and the people that don't want it don't have to pay for it. Granted if everyone paid for it the price per person would be reduced.

As for the Zephyr, they had the choice of either releasing a console or waiting and they choose to release. All the new console does is include HDMI support and have a new chip that runs cooler. Unless you have a tip top of the line tv it won't make much of a difference to you that it has HDMI, and even if you do the difference isn't so great that you can ignore it or save up for a trade in over time.

As for whether it will include a built in HDDVD player, well we'll see about that but I suspect that if it does include it it's not for the games rather again for the top end consumer so they don't have another out of the box component that many people seem to dislike.
on Jan 10, 2007

that way the people that want it can get it and the people that don't want it don't have to pay for it

Absolutely. If this crap had been in the box to begin with (meaning the price would have been higher) I wouldn't have bought one. This is one major reason I haven't bought a PS3 (despite massive supply now), frankly I don't wan't or need a blu-ray player. I want a video game console. What they put out was a half-assed attempt at an all-in-one with few games at huge prices. Not for me. I like the ala carte approach.

on Jan 10, 2007
I am a big fan of the way that Nintendo went with their consoles. While I admit that I have always been a big Nintendo fan, I never really got into X-Box or Playstation (1 or 2) mainly because I never got into their games as much. Halo? Sorry, to me its an over-hyped crappy console shooter. Grand Theft Auto? Fun for awhile, then you run out of stuff to do (and that includes killing cops n hookers). Nintendo, for quite awhile, was the only console that had really NEW types of games, not just a rehash of a first-person-shooter with vehicles *cough* Halo *cough* I loved games like Pikmin and MonkeyBall. Sony started to catch up later, with the Eye Toy, Guitar Hero, and Katamari. Some people call them 'Kiddie games' but I enjoy that I can do something other than kill my thousandth zombie, blow up another tank, or try stop the Nazis. Again.

Anyways, back to the topic.

I already HAVE a DVD player. Why should I buy new one for more? I bought this damn console to play games, not to play movies, surf the web, download pictures, chat with friends.....I have a computer for most of that stuff. That or I can drive over to their place and pound down the door.

As for HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray? I really hope both formats fail. I have about 40 DVD's of movies that I love. Why should I bother upgrading to a $600+ new player just to spend $30+ for every movie....AGAIN?!?!?! Sorry, not really wanting to spend almost $2000 just to get a slightly better picture when I spend more money on a TV it works with. I may end up being in the minority, but I am not too worried about watching a DVD on my 5 year old, non-digital\HD TV.
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