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Microsoft's updates to Xbox to be revealed today

Published May 21, 2013 11:59 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tuesday morning, Microsoft will be announcing the follow-up to its Xbox 360 video game console, officially entering the next-gen gaming war with Sony and Nintendo.

The announcement will be made at 11 a.m. from Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash. Here's what's known about the upcoming console.

Name and price • For years, the next-generation Xbox was always unofficially referred to as "Xbox 720" by gamers. More than a year ago, it was revealed that the code name within Microsoft headquarters was "Durango." It's been speculated that the new box will now be called Xbox Infinity.

There's been no talk about the price, but if Microsoft is to remain competitive in this new war, it isn't very likely to mark the new Xbox higher than $399.

Technology • The new Xbox will be based on a PC architecture, built out of custom-designed PC parts very similar to what's in a personal desktop computer. Sony's recently announced PlayStation 4 also is being constructed of PC parts, including an AMD graphics chip and 8 gigabytes of system memory.

In fact, the new Xbox probably will be very similar to the PlayStation 4 in technical specifications, so both will be on even footing in terms of system power. That would make it much easier for gaming developers, who could program their games for both boxes at the same time and not worry about differences. Of the three new consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, it's Nintendo's Wii U, released last Christmas, that is the least powerful.

The new Xbox also is expected to include a hard drive, as well as a Blu-ray drive, to play the games, something the Xbox 360 did not have, while the PlayStation 3 did.

Services • Although the PlayStation 4 will be built for gaming first and foremost, the next Xbox will further promote Microsoft's desire to take over living rooms. The new console is expected to be not just a gaming device but the center of the home entertainment experience.

That means it also will have some kind of cable and satellite TV integration, and utilize a service that makes the console the heart of your TV-watching. That's probably going to include continued use of the Kinect motion controller for manipulating the service and the inclusion of a tablet-like an iPad for a remote. The Xbox 360 already has a feature called SmartGlass that utilizes a computer tablet.

One of the most controversial features that could be included — to the chagrin of many gamers — is "always-on" functionality, meaning that the Xbox requires it be connected to an Internet connection for it to work. If so, it's because Xbox wants the feature to help it curb software piracy (the always-on connection would authenticate a game as an original copy). Many gamers don't have an Internet connection or want to play the box in a room that doesn't have a connection.

The most recent speculation suggests that the Xbox won't require one.

Kinect • Microsoft is very bullish about its Kinect motion controller, an accessory shaped like a bar that sits in front of the TV and is pointed at the gamer to read body motions.

Expect Microsoft to introduce an updated version of Kinect with even better cameras, sensors, and microphones that not only can read a gamer's body movements but detect who is in the room though facial recognition. It also should have better speech recognition.

It's not known what the new gamepad controller will look like or what kind of functionality it will have. Sony introduced a controller for its PlayStation 4 that has a touchpad and a light sensor, in addition to the standard dual joysticks.

Games • What's a new system without the games? Undoubtedly, Microsoft will announce a few at Tuesday's presentation to show off the system's power. A more complete lineup will be introduced next month during Microsoft's press conference at the big E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles.

Could a new "Halo" game made specifically for the new Xbox be among them?

vince@sltrib.com

Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi