Several excited Xbox-related Web sites report that the Xbox Software Development Kit (SDK), which went out to developers this month, reveals previously unknown details about the machine. Chief among them is a replacement for the Windows user interface (UI)--dubbed the Xbox Dashboard--that offers a friendlier face to a "stripped" Windows 2000 OS. The Xbox will ship with support for both NTSC and PAL video formats so that it can be used in any locale. Support for the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) format is also included.
As for hardware, the Xbox will ship with both 56K modem and Ethernet connectivity, hardware-accelerated DVD playback, and more. The digital dashboard (which essentially provides a UI when no game is running) will interface with the DVD player for DVD and CD playback and offer access to features such as system configuration utilities, connectivity utilities, and saved game management. Game controllers connect to the system using standard USB ports, opening up the market for third-party developers to develop gaming devices as well as keyboard and mouse controllers.
The Xbox game format is not compatible with Windows-based applications, although its games are developed similarly using familiar tools. Microsoft Direct3D will be the primary graphics API, as it is for traditional desktop-based versions of Windows. But Xbox will not use DirectShow for streaming media, instead incorporating proprietary technology that takes better advantage of the underlying hardware. Microsoft expects to ship the Xbox in late 2001