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Next Xbox will be “Always On, Always Connected”

by Mark Tyson on 20 March 2013, 14:29

Tags: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Xbox

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A new leak of documentation concerning the nextBox / Xbox720 / Durango details how the console will be “Always On, Always Connected” so that it is ready “instantly” whenever users wish to play. All your installed games and the console OS will be kept up to date “with no waiting for the console to restart or install updates”.

The above information comes from gaming site VGLeaks who published a screenshot of the “Durango Hardware Overview” from the xdk documentation, which gives up lots of juicy details about Microsoft’s next Xbox.

Compulsory Kinect

“Every Durango console will be sold with a new high-fidelity Kinect Sensor, which will be required for the system to operate”, reads part of the hardware overview. Importantly the new sensor, in addition to having better fidelity, will allow people to enjoy playing Kinect enabled titles in smaller spaces, due to its wider field of view.

Don’t need to keep the disks handy?

Every console will have a hard drive capable of holding “a large number of games”. In addition “All games will be installed on the hard drive. Play from the optical disc will not be supported”, reads the documentation. The console is said to be kitted out with a Blu-ray drive however “during gameplay, games will not use content from the optical disc” so you might well be able to play all your games without swapping disks. Also the installation system is being designed so that games can be played even as they are being installed, so you can get to the fun quicker.

Always On, Always Connected

The next Xbox will “always maintain a network connection”. The documentation says this is to keep console system software and games always fully up-to-date. Also being always on means that users will be able to quickly resume connected gaming experiences. Whether the constant internet connection is used for DRM purposes remains to be seen.

The next Xbox is expected to be unveiled within the next few months and be launched in good time for Xmas 2013, alongside its nemesis the Sony PlayStation 4.

The full text from the leaked screenshot is reproduced below, thanks to VG247 for typing it up.

The Durango console is designed to offer developers modern hardware that is more powerful than the Xbox 360. It uses a familiar x64 Architecture and tools, and compared with Xbox 360 development, will reduce development time and effort spent on performance optimization. Hardware accelerators, including “move engines” for common tasks, will be added to the console. Move engines can perform common game tasks like compression and decompression while moving data around the system. The console also has dedicated hardware support for common audio processing tasks that reduce the amount of CPU time that must be devoted to audio. The GPU provides considerable computing power, and supports Direct3D 11.
Durango will implement different power states so that it can always be powered on, but will draw minimal electricity when not in use. The console will be ready instantly when users want to play, and will always maintain a network connection so that console software and games are always current. With this “Always On, Always Connected” design, users will quickly and easily enjoy their connected entertainment experiences, with no waiting for the console to restart or install updates.
Every Durango console will be sold with a new high-fidelity Kinect Sensor, which will be required for the system to operate. The console will provide HD video, and will use new depth sensor technology to provide better screen resolution and less noisy depth data. Active infrared illumination will provide high-quality monochrome images even in low ambient light conditions. A wider field of view allows play in smaller spaces, and removes the need for a tilt motor.
System software will offer a full set of system API for Natural User Interface (NUI), and the API set will be an improvement to the corresponding API used by Xbox 360. Skeleton tracking, identity and other NUI functions will be performed by the system, and for that reason, titles no longer need to allocate title resources to NUI.
The Durango controller will make the best-in-class Xbox 360 controller even better. it will have low-latency wireless connectivity to the console, and improved ergonomics. System interaction that use the controller will be simplified to make them easier for noncore gamers.
Every Durango console will have a hard drive, although its exact capacity has not been chosen. It will be large enough, however, to hold a large number of games. All games will be installed on the hard drive. Play from the optical disc will not be supported.
Durango consoles will have a Blu-ray Disc drive. Disc media will be used for distribution, but during gameplay, games will not use content from the optical disc. An installation system is being designed that will allow gamers to begin playing while the game is being installed on the hard drive rather than waiting until installation is complete.
Audio output from Durango will be all digital – 7.1 discrete PCM output through HDMI and S/PDIF Hardware accelerators will be included for decoding and decompressing common audio formats. There also will be a dedicated sound processor to perform common signal processing in hardware.

HEXUS Forums :: 46 Comments

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And sod your leccy bills!
And sod your leccy bills!

Because we're all so energy efficient…

I assume in can drop back to a low-power, “GPU-off, 1 CPU core” type mode as with most other modern systems, even when doing things like updates and having the disk active the idle draw could easily be <10W with a good efficient PSU, just look at a NUC or other SFF device. Unless you've got posh LED bulbs then just leaving one light on is many times worse.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm interested in what the power consumption of various states will be like for the next consoles, as it's pretty horrendous for the current Xbox/PS3, although better than it was at release.

This always-on has to be done right, 10W 24-7, doing nothing, is unacceptable nowadays. It might not be that much vs some other stuff depending what you leave on, but however much it is, it's another needless, wasteful drain. They will have had to put a serious focus on efficiency if they don't want to be ridiculed, e.g. aggressive component gating, spin down the HDD when it's not needed, etc. It's possible, you only have to look at mobile devices, but we're still yet to see a decent amount of effort put into AC-powered hardware.
My sockets still have power switches fortunately.
Wonder if it has a graceful total-shutdown option? Switching off during an update or something could be bad…