Source: majornelson.com

Wave 1 of the Xbox LIVE Update Preview Program is in the process of being pushed out to those selected. If you were not selected, don’t worry…we’ll be adding more people over the next few days. If you have been selected, you’ll will get the update sometime over the next few hours when you sign in to Xbox LIVE. You can confirm your acceptance in the first wave by signing in to the Connect Site, where you’ll also find more details on the program and links to the private preview forums on Xbox.com. In addition, we’ve also be sending you an an email to your Windows LIVE ID that you registered with Connect.

Source: majornelson.com

I am happy to announce that we’re doing an Xbox LIVE Update Preview program for upcoming features such as Zune, Facebook and Twitter. Much like we have done in the past, you’ll need to visit the Microsoft Connect site from this link and sign in with your Windows LIVE ID that is connected to your Xbox LIVE Gamertag.

Once you do that, you need to fill out the "Xbox LIVE Update Preview Sign Up" survey in order to be considered for receiving the Preview System Update. We're asking a few questions about where you live, your home network, ISP connection and a few other pieces of information. We are looking for a good cross-section of our members in order to get the best feedback we can.
The Xbox team will then review all of the applications and if you’re selected we’ll send you an email notifying you of your acceptance in the program. A couple of points before you head off to register:

  • We’re looking for multiple thousands of participants, so your chances of making it in are good
  • This opportunity is open to all Xbox LIVE Members in regions where Xbox LIVE is available
  • Just completing the survey does not automatically get you access to the Preview Program. We’ll be making final selections from the completed surveys and send you an email if you are selected.
  • While both Xbox LIVE Gold and Silver members can sign up, Priority will be given to Gold members in the selection process.

For additional details and specific requirements, head to Xbox.com.

If you are accepted, you'll hear from us in about a week. Make sure your information on Connect is updated with a current email address so we can email you if you are accepted.

Sign up for the Xbox LIVE Update Preview Program

Good luck!

Update: The sign up period for the preview program is now closed. Good luck!

Source: www.majornelson.com

I am happy to announce that we’re doing an Xbox 360 System Update Preview program for our next release, and the opportunity to sign up is now available. Much like we did last year, you’ll need to visit the Microsoft Connect site from this link and sign in with your Windows LIVE ID that is connected to your Xbox LIVE Gamertag.

Once you do that, you need to fill out the "Xbox LIVE Update Preview Sign Up" survey in order to be considered for receiving the Preview System Update. We're asking a few questions about where you live, your home network, ISP connection and a few other pieces of information. We are looking for a good cross-section of our members in order to get the best feedback we can.

The Xbox team will then review all of the applications and if you’re selected we’ll send you an email notifying you of your acceptance in the program. A couple of points before you head off to register:


We’re looking for multiple thousands of participants, so your chances of making it in are good.

This opportunity is open to all Xbox LIVE Members in regions where Xbox LIVE is available.

Just completing the survey does not automatically get you access to the Preview Program.

We’ll be making final selections from the completed surveys and send you an email if you are selected.

While both box LIVE Gold and Silver members can sign up, Priority will be given to Gold members in the selection process.


If you are accepted, you'll hear from us in about a week. Make sure your information on Connect is updated so we can email you if you are accepted. Also, I’ll be sure to updated/edit if the program fills up.

Sign up for the Xbox LIVE Update Preview Program

Good luck!
Source: www.teamxbox.com
Following reports that Microsoft was working on a device to compete with the iPod Touch and iPhone, the software giant decided to announce the Zune HD in order to put an end to all the rumors floating around. However, other than details of the device's screen and ability to ouput HD video, Microsoft didn't provide further information on the hardware that powers the Zune HD.

In our "Microsoft Working on Digital Entertainment Handheld" news story, we speculated on the possibility that the Tegra family of computers-on-a-chip could be the technology powering the next mobile devices from Microsoft. Well, we were right.

Multiple sources has confirmed that NVIDIA is indeed powering the Zune HD with its all-mighty Tegra. PC Perspective even claims NVIDIA officials confirmed such fact at Computex earlier this month.



According to NVIDIA, the Tegra offers the industry’s longest HD video and MP3 playback on a mobile device (over 100 hours audio and 10 hours HD video playback). It also features, among other things, a true dual-display system that lets you watch media on an HDMI display while using the Tegra-powered handheld as a remote control device.

It makes sense, considering that when Microsoft announced the Zune HD, it revealed that "The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback supported HD video files from the device through a premium high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) audiovisual docking station (sold separately) direct to an HD TV in 720p."

Judging by the spec mentioned by Microsoft of 720p, we can conclude that the Zune HD is using the Tegra APX 2500 (the 2600 has been created for Android-based devices and the Tegra 600 Series is for larger mobile devices and can output up to 1080p HD video).
Source: www.cnet.com
CNET conducted a poll earlier this week asking readers which company--Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony--had the most impressive announcements at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

More than 10,000 people responded. More than 51.9 percent of the respondents said Microsoft bested its competitors. Thirty-four percent of those who answered the poll said Sony had the best announcements. Nintendo finished last, with just 5.6 percent of respondents saying it had the best E3. Ironically, the fourth option--"None of them--they were all yawners"--beat out Nintendo, with 8.4 percent of the vote.

It's a well-deserved victory for Microsoft. At this year's event, the company announced a new, expanded Xbox Live offering for the console, including a new video store with 1080p content. The Xbox 360 will also sport Facebook and Twitter integration.

Those announcements, however, paled in comparison to what came next. Microsoft will be offering full-game downloads on Xbox Live. On top of that, Halo:ODST, Left4Dead 2, Splinter Cell Conviction, and Forza Motorsport 3 will all be exclusive on the console. And in what may have shaken Sony's world more than any other announcement, Hideo Kojima took the stage, announcing that he is bringing his wildly popular Metal Gear Solid series to the Xbox 360 with Metal Gear Solid Rising.

All that's great. But Microsoft's biggest announcement was Project Natal. Taking Nintendo's motion control to a whole new level, Project Natal allows you to control on-screen action without a controller. It senses motion, sound, and 3D movement. Want to throw a pitch? Move your arm like a pitcher, and the game will throw the ball. Want to kick a soccer ball? Swing your foot forward, and the Xbox 360 will take care of the rest. It's like the Wiimote, but without the controller--and cooler.

You're probably wondering what Sony and Nintendo had to say at E3. Sony unveiled the PSP Go, a roster of exclusives, including Gran Turismo 5 and God of War 3, and a new motion controller that uses Sony's Eye technology to provide in-game motion control. It's cool, but it's no Project Natal.

Nintendo had a tough year at E3. It announced a new Super Mario Bros. title for the Wii. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is also coming to its console. But that's about it. Oh, and a pulse reader called the Wii Vitality Sensor. Yeah, I don't get it, either.

As you can see, it wasn't much of a competition for the Xbox 360. Sony's big announcement was motion control. And Nintendo is still staying true to Mario. In the meantime, Microsoft is pushing the envelope and taking its business to the next level.

I think it's time that we commend Microsoft for its gaming efforts. Nintendo played it safe, with a few minor announcements, hoping that they would be enough to stay in the lead. Sony continued its utter disregard for reality (can we please get a PS3 price drop?). But Microsoft took a step back, evaluated the market, and announced plans that could transform the industry.

Game downloads are the future. Exclusives help sell game consoles. And taking motion control to the next level is the right move for Microsoft.

You can say what you want about Microsoft and its Xbox 360. But at this year's E3, it made the competition look foolish. And in the cutthroat business of video games, that's a major victory in and of itself.

Wake up, Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft has.
Source: www.ign.com
Sony's E3 press conference might still be days away, but it would appear one of the company's biggest cats is out of the bag -- the PSP Go is real.

Yes, for some reason the latest episode of Qore is live and features host Veronica Belmont speaking in the past tense about E3 and getting a private demo of the PSP Go from SCEA Director of Hardware John Koller. Want the deets? Well, imagine a smaller PSP-3000 where you slide the top portion up to reveal the D-Pad, Select button, Start button, and traditional face buttons. The screen is going to be 3.8 inches, the unit is 44 percent lighter than the PSP-3000, there's no UMD drive, there's a Memory Stick micro slot, it's Bluetooth compatible so that you can use a headset and link it to your cell phone, and the unit packs 16 gigabytes of flash memory.


As if that news wasn't huge enough, the episode of the show features our first look at LittleBigPlanet Portable in action (the screen is in tight on Sackboy and packing a lot of color) and Koller says that there is a new Metal Gear and Gran Turismo coming to the PSP.


In terms of the family tree, Koller said that the PSP Go is not replacing the PSP-3000 but that both units will live in harmony on retail shelves -- although he did say that Sony likes 10-year lifecycles so the PSP Go should have a bit longer life than the PSP-3000. Still, Koller said the company plans to continue to support both downloadable and retail-based games. Belmont asked if there would be different games for the Go versus the traditional PSP; Koller responded that the units will have a similar catalog to begin with, but with time, he expects there to be some differences -- like maybe developers making smaller games that are shorter experiences.

Want to get your hands on the PSP Go? Koller said that the unit is expected to ship this fall.


Source: www.teamxbox.com
One of the Most Anticipated Video Games of the Year Offers a Globally Diverse Collection of Music Including Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, Electronica, Rock and More

DJ Hero™ will drop the needle on one of the most anticipated new video games of 2009 with a completely fresh experience and legendary artists including Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, Justice, Marvin Gaye, Beck, Beastie Boys and N.E.R.D. DJ Hero features more than 100 individual songs that have been transformed into more than 80 exclusive, original mixes by superstar DJs including DJ Shadow, DJ Z-Trip and DJ AM. With an innovative, new turntable controller and the hottest music collection of original music, DJ Hero is a unique new social music gaming experience that will excite the millions of dance club music fans who can now play along to hit songs from a range of genres including hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock and electronica allowing them to rule the party with original mixes.

Joining the internationally acclaimed DJ, producer and recording artist DJ Shadow, who has been consulting and contributed several mixes for DJ Hero, and making their video game debuts, DJ Z-Trip, a founder of the mashup movement who’s known worldwide for his sold out shows and eclectic style, and DJ AM, one of the world’s premier and most in-demand DJs today, appear as in-game characters and have each created multiple exclusive mixes for DJ Hero.

In DJ Hero, faces in the crowd are transformed into the life of the party as the game’s turntable controller – created exclusively for DJ Hero and featuring familiar DJ tools including a fully-rotating turntable, sample buttons, effects dial and cross fader – immerses fans into the authenticity of DJ culture and a sea of music. By utilizing and mastering various DJ techniques including scratching, blending, cross fading and sampling, while leaving room for creative expression with a variety of effects and player chosen samples and scratches, gamers will rule the party performing music as only a DJ can. Social expression is heightened with euphoric multiplayer gameplay where two DJs can battle competitively or have a player join in to emcee over any track in the game with a mic. Additionally, gamers can rock together as DJ Hero features DJ-guitar exclusive mixes played with a turntable controller and Guitar Hero® guitar controller.

DJ Hero is being developed by FreeStyleGames for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PLAYSTATION®3 and PlayStation®2 computer entertainment systems and the Wii™ system from Nintendo. The game is not yet rated by the ESRB. For more information about DJ Hero, please visit djhero.com. For more information on DJ Shadow, DJ Z-Trip and DJ AM, please visit djshadow.com, djztrip.com and djam.com, respectively.
Source: www.teamxbox.com
Confirming bits of the exclusive information we reported last week, Microsoft officially announced today the integration of the Zune digital entertainment service into Xbox Live, taking this catalog of TV shows and films to all markets where Xbox Live is available. Additionally, Microsoft announced a new Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Below is the press release with the announcement, along with the first image of the new device:

Microsoft Announces the Expansion of the Zune Entertainment Service to New Platform and Markets; Confirms New Zune HD Portable Media Player

Premium Zune digital entertainment service to be available internationally on Xbox LIVE

REDMOND, Wash. — May 26, 2009 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the evolution of Zune, the company’s end-to-end music and entertainment service, to a new platform and new markets. Zune will extend its video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17 million international Xbox LIVE subscribers. In addition, Microsoft confirmed the next generation of the Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the U.S. this fall, Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet browser.




“The Zune music player is an integral part of the overall Zune experience, and we’re proud to be growing and extending our offering beyond the device,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV, Video and Music Business Group. “Delivering on Microsoft’s connected entertainment vision, this news marks a turning point for Zune as it brings cross-platform experiences and premium video content to living rooms around the world.”

Zune Service Expands to New Platform

Zune will be a premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalog of TV and film to the platform. Zune will occupy the first slot within the Xbox user interface in the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new consumers for the first time. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next week, attendees will see firsthand how Zune integrates into Xbox LIVE to create a game-changing entertainment experience.

Introducing Zune HD

Zune HD is the next iteration of the Zune device family and brings a new level of listening and viewing experiences to the portable media player category.

Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio receiver so users can listen to higher-quality sound than traditional radio on the go. Users also will have access to the additional song and artist data broadcast by HD Radio stations as well as additional channels from their favorite stations multicasting in HD. If you don’t like the song playing on your station’s HD channel, switch to its HD2 or HD3 channels for additional programming.

The bright OLED touch screen interface allows users to flip through music, movies and other content with ease, and the 16:9 widescreen format display (480x272 resolution) offers a premium viewing experience on the go.

The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback supported HD video files from the device through a premium high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) audiovisual docking station (sold separately) direct to an HD TV in 720p.*

Zune HD will include a full-screen Internet browser optimized for multitouch functionality.

Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for instant streaming to the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store.

More information on Zune and related images is available at http://www.zune.net/press and http://www.zune.net/ZuneHD.

About Zune

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand that provides an integrated digital entertainment experience. The Zune platform includes a line of portable digital media players, elegant software, the Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service, and the Zune Social online music community, created to help people discover more music. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division and supports the company’s software-based services vision to help drive innovation in the digital entertainment space. More information can be found online at http://www.zune.net/en-us/press . About Xbox LIVE Xbox LIVE connects more than 17 million members across 26 countries to each other and the entertainment they love. Home of more content from one remote than can be found from any device connected to the television, Xbox LIVE is also a unified online social network bringing friends together, no matter where they are — in the living room or across the world.

More information and Xbox LIVE membership can be found online at http://www.xbox.com/en-us/live.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Supported 720p HD video files play on the device, downscaled to fit the screen at 480 x 272 — not HD resolution. Zune HD and AV Dock, and an HDTV (all sold separately) are required to view video at HD resolution.

HD Radio™ and the HD Radio logo are proprietary trademarks of iBiquity Digital Corp.
Numark Industries, the world’s leading manufacturer of DJ technology, and Genius, Inc., released today the first images of the controller for Scratch: The Ultimate DJ. The Scratch Deck combines a free-spinning, touch sensitive turntable with a crossfader and 5 Akai Pro MPC-style drum pads. The turntable allows players to manipulate the songs in real time, while the 5 Akai Pro MPC-style drum pads give players the opportunity to perform and customize tracks by triggering samples using the very same pads professional hip-hop beat productions use. Samples can either be pre-loaded into the game using 60 unique battle records that will ship with the software, or players can record and upload their own samples using a compatible USB microphone. Below is the press release with the announcement and pictures of the controller:

NUMARK AND GENIUS PRODUCTS REVEAL SCRATCH: THE ULTIMATE DJ VIDEOGAME CONTROLLER FOR XBOX 360® AND PLAYSTATION®3

Designed by Leading DJ Technology Manufacturer, SCRATCH DECK Gives Players an Authentic DJ Experience Like No Other

Cumberland, R.I. (May 27, 2009) – Numark Industries, the world’s leading manufacturer of DJ technology, and Genius, Inc., released today the first images of the videogame controller for Scratch: The Ultimate DJ for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system. SCRATCH DECK will be showcased for hands-on play at a special event in Los Angeles on June 3, during the week of the videogame industry’s most high profile trade show, the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo.


“For decades, Numark has been developing turntables, DJ mixers and digital DJ controllers. We know what professional DJs demand, and we used that knowledge to produce SCRATCH DECK,” said Adam Cohen, Director of Business Development, Numark. “It was critical that we deliver an authentic DJ experience to gamers, whether they be experienced DJs or players who have never put a needle to vinyl.” SCRATCH DECK combines two essential elements of the DJ and hip-hop experience - a free-spinning, touch sensitive turntable with a crossfader and 5 Akai Pro MPC-style drum pads. The turntable allows players to add their own style and manipulate the songs in real time, while the MPC-style drum pads give players the opportunity to perform and customize tracks by triggering samples using the very same pads that are the cornerstone of professional hip-hop beat production. Samples can either be pre-loaded into the game using 60 unique battle records that will ship with the software, or players can record and upload their own samples using a compatible USB microphone. In addition to the features created by Numark, SCRATCH DECK also contains standard game controls found in music rhythm games. The turntable features a realistic surface that feels remarkably similar to a vinyl record. The drum pads and the crossfader also deliver an authentic and realistic music production experience. Left-handed DJs will appreciate that SCRATCH DECK is designed for use in right or left-handed configurations. “Being involved with Hip-Hop for so long, Numark has consistently been the standard for innovation and leadership in computer DJ controllers, their quality is second to none,” said Quincy Jones III of QD3 Entertainment. “We are very excited to partner with them to deliver the most authentic DJ experience for gamers and look forward to letting gamers and Hip Hop enthusiasts get their hands on the controller for the first time at E3.” Scratch: The Ultimate DJ combines free-form DJ tricks with great rhythm game play similar to top-selling rhythm games. Scratch: The Ultimate DJ is set in distinctive urban environments and will feature songs from the biggest names in Hip-Hop. Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, featuring the Numark SCRATCH DECK, will be available in Fall 2009.

This week 3 new games, Wallace & Gromit #1, Yosumin! LIVE & Boggle, part of the Family Game Night. You can add these games to your Xbox 360 download queue by clicking on their names.








Liberty City is about to get a little more fabulous -- Rockstar Games has announced The Ballad of Gay Tony, the second episode for Grand Theft Auto 4.
"The team at Rockstar North have yet again surpassed themselves, and made something that is both epic and very innovative. This episode's focus on high-end night life contrasts with the biker gangs portrayed in The Lost and Damned, whilst giving us a lot of new gameplay possibilities."
The Ballad of Gay Tony stars Luis Lopez, a "part-time hoodlum" and "full-time assistant to legendary nightclub impresario Tony Prince," better known as "Gay Tony." As usual, he'll have to juggle competing loyalties while also trying to determine who is "real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price."
The latest GTA4 episode will be available on the Xbox 360 this fall for 1600 Microsoft Points ($19.99). In addition, the episode will be available on retail disc titled Episodes from Liberty City, which will also include the first episode Lost and Damned. Episodes from Liberty City will retail for $39.99, and will not require the original game to play.



Source: www.ign.com
Three fantastic games on one disc, coming this August. Yes, you want it.

Don't say Nintendo didn't do anything for you: on August 24th, the publisher will release Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii. Metroid Prime Trilogy, releasing almost to the day of Metroid Prime 3 Corruption's two year anniversary, is a jammed to the brim package that combines all of Retro's first-person adventure games for the GameCube and Wii, on a single disc. And the two GameCube games – Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 Echoes -- have been reworked with full widescreen, 480p support and feature the same awesome Wii Remote/Nunchuk control that made Metroid Prime 3 Corruption so tight. This is a far superior strategy than what Nintendo is doing in Japan with the Metroid Prime games, since in that territory Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 have been released separately with the "New Play Control" branding. North American gamers get all three for $49.99, an absolute bargain when you consider 2007's Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is still one of the top titles on the Wii and you're getting three great games for the price of a standard Wii release.


Earlier this month we had an opportunity to take a look at pretty much the final version of the compilation package. In our hands-on we could take a look at the brand new front end produced by Retro Studios that ties all three games together in a single menu. Players will set up a profile using one of the system Miis, and all progress in each game will be stored to this profile. You'll be able to pull up how far you are, in percentage, in each of the games and the location of your save file. The front end also has an option menu that affects all three games, so if you've tweaked the controls or lock-on abilities, your settings will carry over into each of the products instead of requiring you to change it up every time. The front end has been designed with a bit of visual flair that matches the Metroid theme. As you work your way through the menus you're digging through a mechanical tube, and when you select the game to load it's obvious that you're inside Samus' cannon…and the camera pulls out to reveal Samus in the specific form/model of the game you'll be playing. When you select the Metroid Prime 2 Echoes Multiplayer mode from this new front end, the camera pulls out to reveal four Samus characters before it jumps into the action.
Source: www.ign.com

The teaser Kojima Productions website struck zero today, then immediately updated itself with an additional 120 hours. Joining the new clock were some additional characters. In addition to a 5, flashes of lightning are now followed by an "e", an "E", and a "3." Adding a bit of (probably unexpected, if you're Konami) drama to this whole matter was the earlier leak via a Japanese 7-Eleven retail listing of a new Metal Gear game to be shown in an issue of Famitsu PS3+PSP that's due on May 30. The countdown ends early next Wednesday Japan time, which would be perfect timing for the usual array of magazine leaks. Alternatively, it could end up just leading to another countdown. We'll let you know.
Source: www.teamxbox.com

MCV UK has reported that Warner Bros. has approached Midway in order to acquire all of its US assets. The number for such a move is a mere $33 million bid. Under the ‘stalking horse’ agreement, Warner could acquire the Mortal Kombat series and Midway’s Chicago and Seattle studios. Midway’s Newcastle and San Diego studios are not included in the deal, nor is the firm’s TNA series. The deal is currently under consideration with the US Bankruptcy Court. While it remains to be seen whether or not this bid will be accepted, the rest of the story continues here.
Blazing Birds
Developer: Vector 2 Games
Publisher: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Genre: Sports & Recreation
Game Rating: E (Everyone)
Mild Fantasy Violence
Players 1-2
HDTV 720p
Custom Soundtracks
Leaderboard






Unlock the full version of Blazing Birds to challenge sixty computer controlled opponents over three levels of difficulty. Invite your friends to play multiplayer matches or tournaments with up to twenty players. Earn achievements and establish your rightful place on the leaderboards! Only the best will face Signum IV. There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see www.xbox.com/live/accounts.

Add Blazing Birds to your Xbox 360 download queue


Gel
Developer: Gastronaut Studios
Publisher: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Genre: Action & Adventure, Puzzle & Trivia
Game Rating: E (Everyone)
Animated BloodComic Mischief
Players 1-4
Co-op 1-2
HDTV 1080p
Online Multiplayer 2-4
Co-op 1-2
Content Downloads
Leaderboards
Voice

Get more costumes, more action, and more puzzles in the Full Version of Gel! Upgrade now for a total of over 100 Puzzle Mode challenges, four full cards of Action Mode intensity, Xbox LIVE online play and unfettered access to the Item Store! This game requires the Xbox 360 hard drive or the 512MB Memory Unit for storage. There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see www.xbox.com/live/accounts.

Add Gel to your Xbox 360 download queue
Source: www.teamxbox.com

Last night, a bunch of pictures of a supposed "Zune X" handheld made their way onto the Internet and today we bring you those pictures for you to tell us your opinion. I don't want to influence you in any way, but I think it's pretty obvious these are...


Specification???





According to sources in Redmond and Santa Clara, Microsoft is in the final design stages of a “digital entertainment handheld.” One of the sources for this story—all of whom chose to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press—used the “xYz” moniker for the device [and I emphasize the “Y” in capitals to reflect the source’s highlighting of that letter out of the three] to explain to me that this “digital entertainment handheld” sits somewhere in-between the Xbox and Zune platforms, offering both gaming and media playback, as well as Internet-related services, all in a portable format. When I asked if such nickname implied that Microsoft will use a brand starting with the “Y” letter for this handheld, the source said: “As far as I know, the name of the device has not been decided yet.” The purpose of using that moniker, the source said, is to emphasize that this device is a mix of the Zune and Xbox platforms and, at the same time, a unique platform on its own. Another source consulted for this story confirmed the development of such mobile device, at least as of December of last year. This source defined the Microsoft handheld as “unlike anything on the market today,” and said that the only way to describe it is to “think of a mashup of the Sony Mylo, the PSP, and the iPhone… errr, the iPod Touch; [the MS handheld] doesn’t need access to a phone network.” That last sentence was one of the juiciest comments made, since the source wanted to emphasize this device lacks access to a phone network and that’s why he changed the iPhone example with the iPod Touch. Even if several analysts and publications have reported that Microsoft is planning to market its own smartphone, this second source told me not to expect any business application or user interface (UI) that resembles a smartphone. Furthermore, the source stressed: “Although the Microsoft handheld is definitely a converged device, this is not a Zune Phone.” The source added: “Microsoft won’t compete with its Windows Mobile customers.”

It’s the Software, Stupid!

Being a hardware geek, I would have preferred to learn everything about the handheld’s specs, but one source told me the most important aspect of this device lies is its software, services and the entertainment experience it offers. Even so, this source did confirm that the handheld is primarily “a portable game console and a media player.” The “xYz” is supposed to have a large WVGA touchscreen display and “hardware features not found on any handheld on the market.” Since I was informed about this, I’ve been trying to come up with specs that are not found on any mobile device currently on sale (more on that later). Once more, this source explained hardware is not the most important factor: “If it was up to the hardware, this device could launch sooner in time.” According to this source, Microsoft is waiting for other pieces of the puzzle to come together:

Key Piece of the xYz Puzzle

“This is a Live Anywhere device” the source reiterated several times. “There will be a single online marketplace; the lines between the Zune, Xbox Live and Sky marketplaces will blur when the handheld launches.” A quick search on the Internet revealed that Sky is the name of a yet-to-be-announced cloud computer service for mobile phones (similar to Apple’s App Store) that will host under its umbrella three services codenamed SkyBox, SkyLine and SkyMarket. It’s worth mentioning these comments regarding Sky were made to me in August of last year, well before the Sky codename would even appear on a Google search.

Live Anywhere

Buy a song, a movie or a TV show on your Xbox, play the content later on the handheld or the other way around. Play an Xbox Live Arcade game either on your Xbox or in this handheld. The source explained that many things Microsoft has implemented in the past, such as attaching your Gamertag to a Windows Live ID, will show this handheld is just one step in a carefully planned strategy that involves several Live branding services. The source also said that the graphical interface found in the New Xbox Experience will make its way onto the Microsoft handheld. The NXE user interface will be even easier to use on the handheld than on the Xbox 360, the source claimed. (Cover Flow-like navigation?) “When this handheld arrives, people will say it is Microsoft’s response to the iPhone, the Nintendo DS, the PSP, and so on, but it will be pretty evident that this device, its software, and services have been in the works for a very long time,” the source added.

Killing Four Birds with One Stone

According to one source, Microsoft will address several competitors with this handheld: Apple, Sony, Nintendo…and Google? “Yes, Google,” the source said. Is the device really that far-reaching that it can serve as a competitor to Google? This Microsoft mobile device will supposedly offer many Live Search services, such as Maps, News, Traffic and Video, and in this way, Microsoft would be counter-attacking the Google phones without competing with its Windows Mobile customers that manufacture mobile phones.

My Thoughts

There are things that cannot be explained in writing, because text cannot express tones, ambiguity and other aspects of an oral conversation. Employees providing such information of an unannounced product act like a sort of “Deep Throat,” being very cautious about every word spelled. Although neither source mentioned such spec, I got a feeling by the comments they made that the handheld will feature WiMax connectivity in addition to the standard Wi-Fi radio currently found in most portable devices. First, WiMax is one of the few features I could think of that practically no handheld device currently in the market has and second, the way the source told me that the MS handheld “doesn’t need access to a phone network” sounded cocky and intriguing.

WiMax

WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a new wireless communication technology aimed to provide broadband access to the Internet without the need of cables. You might be thinking that’s exactly what Wi-Fi is, but that’s a common misconception. Most people tend to think that Wi-Fi is basically wireless internet, when it is in fact a technology for wireless access to a local area network—if that LAN has a router that allows devices on the network to, among other things, access the Internet, well that has nothing to do with the Wi-Fi technology. This possibility has lead people to believe Wi-Fi equals to wireless Internet. On the contrary, WiMax is truly wireless broadband Internet and that’s why it has been touted as a 4G service to distinguish it from the existing communication technologies called 3G. Whether 3G networks are wide-area cellular telephone networks that evolved to incorporate high-speed Internet access and video telephony, WiMax was born from the beginning as a wireless data transmission technology that will treat voice and video simply as another type of digital data. (You can read more about WiMax in this Questions & Answers paper provided by the WiMax forum.) The only WiMax handheld that I could find easily doing a Google search was this phone (can these communicators still be called phones?) from HTC (the manufacturer of the Google/T-Mobile G1 phone) called HTC MAX 4G. This “smartphone,” basically a WiMax version of the HTC Touch HD, is currently only offered for the Russian market, specifically for the Yota WiMax network. Available for 38,900 rubles ($1,000), the device is expected to eventually make its way to other markets. That will mostly depend on the rollout of WiMax networks.



In the United States, Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable and Google are investing $3.2 billion to combine Sprint Nextel and Clearwire into a single company that will build the first nationwide WiMax network. The service has already launched in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. as initial test markets, with Boston, Philadelphia, and Dallas to follow before a nationwide rollout.

NVIDIA

The other ace card up Microsoft’s sleeve could be NVIDIA powering the device with its all-mighty Tegra computer-on-a-chip, whose prototype has been called the “iPhone killer” by the specialized press and mobile geeks. It’s the only hardware I can think of that could provide a mobile device with some specifications “unlike anything on the market today.” As you can see in the picture below, which shows the Tegra-powered smartphone NVIDIA gives to manufacturers as a development unit, this mobile platform is the first one to offer HD-video output via a HDMI connector and the visual power of a GeForce GPU in the palm of your hand. According to NVIDIA, the Tegra offers the industry’s longest HD video and MP3 playback on a mobile device (over 100 hours audio and 10 hours HD video playback). It also features, among other things, a true dual-display system that lets you watch media on an HDMI display while using the Tegra-powered handheld as a remote control device. There’s definitely no smartphone or any other handheld whatsoever that offer such features.


Lately, there have been rumors that Microsoft is working with NVIDIA to create a Microsoft smartphone to compete with the Apple iPhone and the Google phone, but like I mentioned before, my source reiterated several times that there won’t be a Microsoft phone. It is worth mentioning that officially, Microsoft and NVIDIA have a partnership to assure that the first Tegra-powered smartphones run exclusively Windows Mobile. It will be up to hardware manufacturers and NVIDIA as to whether Tegra-powered devices ever run other mobile operating systems. Something worth mentioning is the fact that NVIDIA was the provider of the GPU and motherboard chipset used in the first Xbox, and at some point Microsoft and NVIDIA had to renegotiate the use of the technology found on the Xbox for the Xbox 360 to support backwards compatibility of the previous generation Xbox games-- some of them also available for download as Xbox Originals on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360. Teaming up with NVIDIA would allow Microsoft to run Xbox Originals games on this handheld without having to run again into legal problems. Does the Tegra have the power to run Xbox games? May be not in its current iteration, but NVIDIA has already stated it plans to release a second-generation Tegra chip as soon as this year and a Tegra-III in 2010—even if the first-generation Tegra chips have yet to reach consumers’ hands.

Closing Comments

A recent budget cut to the Entertainment and Devices division, which includes the Xbox, Zune and Windows Mobile units, has revealed Robbie Bach’s group was definitely expending lot of money in R&D; as much as $250 million in only six months; so that figure confirms they were definitely working on something new -- and I don’t think it is the third Xbox home console. Could the longer-than-expected recession affect or completely cancel the launch of a brand new platform such as a portable Xbox? Time will tell.

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