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Recently, in discussions on another site that I frequent, news of Microsoft's update to the original Xbox 360 console system that had leaked out was being discussed. This would the code-name Zephyr update, or version 2 update, to the original Xbox 360. Reportedly the reconfigured system will be updated to add an HDMI port (which wasn't in the original system) and the system will also find that the original 20 gigabyte harddrive is replaced instead with at least a 120 gigabyte harddrive. Whether or not there'll be other changes to the system remains to be seen until Microsoft makes official announcements at CES or later.
Either way, the potential availability of an HDMI port had some people on the other site I mentioned ready to take up arms against Microsoft. Why? Let me clip and paraphrase a bit from the original words of one individual:
Zephyr better not be the only HDMI option otherwise I am going to be PISSED. I bought the xbox to play HD DVD's and the fact that I can only get 1080i out to my TV is a sore point with me.
My answer there, repeated for the most part here (and expanded upon a bit) is here: what right you'd have to be pissed if you can't get HDMI for the box you already have?
As I answered in my reply elsewhere, the people that bought the box (Xbox 360, original versions) bought it based on the features it had, not what you thought it might eventually have. Anyone that says they bought it to play HD-DVDs would have to admit that they didn't buy it until after they were absolutely certain that an HD-DVD drive would be available for it. There were hopes that the system would eventually support HD-DVD or Blu-Ray (whichever technology seemd to be winning out, though you can be sure that Microsoft would have gone Blu-Ray very begrudgingly considering that it's the format of choice of their arch-rival in the gaming arena: Sony), but no guarantees originally.
It wasn't until nearly a year into the life of the system that HD-DVD became a reality for the Xbox 360. It came out as an add-on device that is easily moved between systems if desired. (Which unfortunately adds to the kludginess of the Xbox 360 system, see earlier article on that one...)
Meanwhile, as I told the person that made the basic comments quotes above, they've had the full use of the box up to this point, and beyond. Current users/owners of Xbox 360 systems may be missing some features that someone who buys a version 2/zephyr box will get, but they won't have gotten the time to play with the system that current owners will have already had.
Just like any other early adopter, people who buy first generations of anything, or early generations of anything take some lumps along the way and roll on. If those people don't like it, then they need not be early adopters. There are other possibilities as well. They can sell the current box, bank the money, save it until Zephyr is out and then pay for it and enjoy it. They'd be missing the gaming over the interim period, but at least they won't have to be pissed about not having an option to get a feature that shouldn't really be that important anyway.
Now, don't get me wrong, HDMI support is the future. Whether we like or not, it's going to be necessary if we want full-on HiDef support on our equipment. Without HDMI a lot of equipment will not be using the full capabilities of the HDTVs that we'll own. Instead of 1080p as the best resolution we'll have available our systems will down-res or down-convert images back to something lower and less hi-quality (and far less HiDef). It's all part of the rights management systems that Hollywood, Microsoft, and the hardware manufacturers have all been hammering out. Systems that will limit our ability to use the products that Hollywood considers theirs. We are, after all, only going to be able to license the use of the products in ways that Hollywood deems appropriate.
Hollywood (and their friends in the music industry in Nashville, Detroit, and other bastions of the music industry) wants us restricted to limited viewing unless we pay higher costs and unless we use equipment that copy protection schemes that will basically ruin the images that we want to see unless it's all done over closed loop systems that all verify repeatedly, with each other, that the system is the one that we originally got everything going on and that there's no interception of the signal (for potential copying) going on. Without implementing HDMI we'll lose the ability to meet those system checks and in so doing, we'll be stuck -- once Hollywood decides to play very nasty -- seeing images in lower resolutions, or with pop-ups that indicate we're thieves that are trying to rob them.
But does it all really matter? I don't think so. HDMI is something that Hollywood desperately wants us all to be using (for the reasons mentioned above), but so long as there are hold-outs using older technology and lower (slightly) specifications for their viewing habits, Hollywood is stuck not able to implement their grand plan. For as long as there are users out there for whom 1080i over composite cable is good enough, or for whom 780p is good enough, then for the most part Hollywood will be stuck leaving those modes available to us.
Consider that the vast majority of the TVs in the USA are still 4:3 NTSC sets. Not Hi-Def, not digital (unless they're using a cable TV box that converts the signal for them, or unless they're using satellite TV with a similar box). Just plain-Jane NTSC. In many cases analog cable, or in others just the signal that comes in via rabbit-ears or outside antenna. The public is being very hesitant about adopting these new expensive toys, and who can really blame them?
Me, I've still not gotten the HD-DVD add-on drive for my Xbox 360. I want it, but then again I hesitate to get it because I just am not that interested in paying for new discs to replace existing ones I already have. I know I can rent HD-DVD discs from Netflix and others, and may do that, but I prefer to own some favorites. So, I can sell off those favorites, wait and get new Hi-Def versions of them, or just wait period. For now I'm waiting period.
Has HD-DVD really won yet? eh, hard to tell. Sony didn't hit their targets, at least by anyone's realistic measure of things, and the PS3 is overpriced as a gaming system, value purchase as a Blu-Ray player, but not selling like hot-cakes because it's just too much to invest right now. So, Blu-Ray gets adopted slowly or not at all, and HD-DVD wins, right? Well, I'm not gonna rush to judgement there. I'll wait and see. Sony will wind up selling tons of PS3 systems over time. That's a lot of Blu-Ray players. As long as the studios put out content, it may not be a bad investment. Meanwhile why buy HD-DVD discs if HD-DVD isn't gonna be the winner? You see the quandary, as apparently most of the buying public does.
Which comes back around to the issue of why no one should be that excited about the future of the Xbox 360, or at least not to the point of being upset about it. Let it get upgraded, improved, etc. That's great. I may wind up getting a version 2 (Zephyr) box myself. I want a second system for my house so that my wife and daughter can play on it. So, I can wait, eventually get one of the new generation boxes, and pass along my older one. Nice for me.
In the interim, I'm not gonna blow a gasket over the idea that I've paid for a system that is missing features someone else will get when they buy the next version. I don't get mad because people that are driving around in this years version of the car I bought last year got something different than I did, so why should I get upset about life in the console gaming world working the same way?