WinInfo Daily UPDATE, March 10, 2005

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In the News

- Xbox 2 Will Introduce HD Era of Video Gaming
- Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Goes International

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Xbox 2 Will Introduce HD Era of Video Gaming

Microsoft finally lifted the veil of secrecy about its next-generation Xbox video game console (code-named Xenon), providing concrete information about the device for the first time. Microsoft made the Xbox 2 disclosures yesterday at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2005, held in San Francisco.
According to Microsoft Corporate Vice President J. Allard, Xbox 2 will move video gaming from the "3-D Era" to the "\[High Density\] (HD) Era," providing game fans with the lush, high-resolution video quality that movie and TV lovers have enjoyed for some time. "In the HD Era the platform is bigger than the processor," he said during a GDC keynote address. "New technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment as we know it." Architecturally, the Xbox 2 features a multicore processor architecture that was codeveloped with IBM and an advanced graphics processor codeveloped with ATI. The current Xbox console features a stock Intel Pentium III processor and an NVIDIA graphics chip. Xbox 2 will support gaming technologies such as DirectX and the recently revealed XNA Studio, which is a Visual Studio (VS)-based software development environment.
Because it's an HD device, the Xbox 2 will present games in the standard widescreen 16 x 9 aspect ratio, which will be letterboxed on standard-definition sets. And with this next-generation console, Microsoft will require all Xbox 2 titles to be Xbox Live-aware. Xbox Live is Microsoft's hugely popular Xbox online game service. Allard also showed off the new Xbox 2 Guide, which will provide a UI, or "entertainment gateway" in Microsoft parlance, that will be consistent across all Xbox 2 game titles and media experiences. Through the guide, Xbox 2 users can connect with their buddies, their games, and their digital media content. The guide also includes access to the following:
- Gamer Cards. Similar to the Contact Card feature in MSN Messenger 7, Gamer Cards provide quick-look information about other Xbox Live gamers and helps players hook up with others who have similar interests and skills.
- Marketplace. Essentially an online store for purchasing game add-ons, new game levels, maps, weapons, skins, and even community-created content, the Marketplace will feature game and genre searching.
- Micro-transactions. This feature will let game makers charge small amounts of money for in-game services and features, such as new cars for a racing title or new weapons for a first-person shooter.
- Custom playlists. An online guide that connects players to their music collections, custom playlists is a somewhat innovative feature that means gamers will no longer be bound to in-game soundtracks but can instead listen to their own tracks while playing games.

Allard said that Microsoft will formally announce the Xbox 2 at the 2005 E3 Expo in May. Presumably, at that time, the company will reveal the final name of the product and its expected release date.

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Goes International

Microsoft announced that it will be expanding the availability of PCs based on Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005 to 20 additional countries by the end of 2005. That expansion means that the premium consumer version of Windows will be available to consumers in more than 30 countries and in 17 languages, not a far cry from the 49 international versions of XP Professional Edition and XP Home Edition that the software giant now sells. The announcement came this week at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany.
"We're continuing to see unprecedented demand for Windows XP Media Center Edition worldwide," said Microsoft Senior Vice President Will Poole, who heads up the Windows Client Business. "Now, together with our partners, we are answering that demand by delivering our best version of Windows ever with new ways to experience digital photos, music, TV, and more." Microsoft notes that more than 90 of the top PC makers and more than 7000 system builders now ship Media Center PCs in more than 13 countries worldwide. Additionally, more than 30 content partners provide online spotlight services for Media Center users.
Currently, Media Center PCs are available in Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States. By the end of 2005, Microsoft will ship localized versions of XP MCE 2005 for Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and Turkey.
Initially off to a slow start, sales of Media Center PCs have exploded since Microsoft shipped XP MCE 2005 last October. The company now expects PC makers to sell 20 million Media Center PCs by 2007. You can find out more about this innovative XP version in my XP MCE 2005 review on the SuperSite for Windows.

==== Events and Resources ====

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