What if Microsoft released not one but two new Xbox consoles: one designed to cater to boutique next-gen spenders, another more palatable, price-wise, if not as forward-looking?
We may find out next month, according to Microsoft maven Paul Thurrott, who revealed on What The Tech — in no uncertain terms — to expect Microsoft’s big reveal in May. “Originally they were going to announce this thing in April, April 24, now they’re going to announce it, you know, May 21st,” said Thurrott during the show, which aired last Friday.
What’s more, Thurrott says the next-gen box we’ve all come to know (rightly or wrongly) as “Durango” will cost big-big: $500, to be precise, or perhaps $300 for a less tricked-out version (smaller hard drive?) with a subscription, says Thurrott. Subscription to what? Presumably whatever Xbox LIVE morphs into.
What about a less expensive next-gen Xbox that wouldn’t play games — something to compete, say, more with Roku or Apple TV? Thurrott says, “That device was codenamed ‘Yuma’ and they’re not making it. They may make one in the future but it’s not happening this year.” Except maybe it is happening in the guise of a budget-priced Xbox 360: Thurrott says Microsoft plans to release a cheaper Xbox 360, codenamed “Stingray,” for $100. He reasons they’ll do this partly to keep the Xbox 360 market alive, because he doesn’t think the $500 Xbox will play Xbox 360 games (that is, no backward compatibility), though he cautions, “That I don’t actually know. That I’m guessing.” In any event, a $100 Xbox 360 might be competitive with Roku or Apple TV (as a media center box), but only if Microsoft pulled stuff like Netflix and Hulu outside its subscription-based Xbox LIVE paywall.
Last but not least, Thurrott says the information he received “a long time ago” about this next-gen Xbox did in fact include reference to “always online.”
“…it actually says, ‘must be Internet-connected to use,’ that’s in the notes,” he says, whatever that ultimately means. Assuming any of this is true and reflective of current design intentions — seeing is believing, and this is hearsay until we do — “must be Internet-connected to use” could refer to all or just select aspects of the system. What the statement doesn’t capture, is any nuance to an “always online” framework, say grace periods in client-server interactions that might tolerate temporary disruptions in Internet service.
Whatever the case, it sounds like we’ll know more soon — either May 21st, if that date holds up, or E3 itself, which follows a few weeks later in early June.