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Microsoft Patent Shows Next Xbox Customizable Like PC

Eurogamer reports that Microsoft has applied for a scalable console patent that would allow customers to scale up or scale down their Xbox much like PC gamers do with desktops, removing and adding components. Application 20120159090 was submitted in December 2010 at the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office, and was published last month.

According to the application, Microsoft is attempting to patent "versions of a multimedia computer system architecture... which satisfy quality of service (QoS) guarantees for multimedia applications such as game applications while allowing platform resources, hardware resources in particular, to scale up or down over time."

The report suggests that the patent description and the accompanying images share the same fundamental ideas as the "Yukon" system covered briefly in the Xbox 720 documents that appeared towards the beginning of May. Sources confirmed those documents as genuine, dating them back to August 2010, just months before this patent was submitted to the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

But unlike the leaked documents, this patent goes deeper into the design, detailing a base architecture consisting of core components. It also describes a multi-CPU, multi-GPU system in which one combo is reserved for the Xbox platform (dashboard, video encoding/decoding) and one is reserved for applications (gaming).

This seemingly backs up the "transmedia gaming" description in the Xbox 720 leak which revealed Microsoft's plans for running apps simultaneously with games. Examples included running a TV stream while gaming, and opening a strategy guide while the game is still running. One hardware combo would handle the game while the other hardware combo would handle the strategy guide app (web browser?).

To make this possible, Microsoft suggests what it calls "communication fabric" which links all aspects of the console, and regulates bandwidth so that one hardware combo isn't leeching system resources from the other. Think of it as a dual-core console -- two smaller gaming consoles working as one -- yet capable of hardware upgrades by the consumer. One diagram in the patent even shows a third CPU/GPU combo that lends a helping hand to the other two.

There's speculation that this dual-system customizable console setup could lead to multiple configurations from OEMs much like we see with desktops and laptops. Even more, the "over time" could mean that Microsoft is seeking to remove itself from the traditional fixed architecture model as we've seen since the beginning.

Eurogamer says it all. "Combine [the yearly refresh iPad model] model with Microsoft dipping its toes into 'buy now, pay monthly' subscription territory and there's the possibility that the next Xbox could be a new type of hardware platform - one that evolves over time, subsidised via monthly payments as part of an Xbox Live sub," the site speculats. "Processing power on consoles and desktops isn't evolving with anything like the speed of mobile parts, so yearly updates seem unlikely, and on the plus side, the backwards compatibility issue would be resolved once and for all."

Suddenly the Xbox Infinity name seems like a likely choice for Microsoft's next machine.

  • whimseh
    Well that's pretty cool!
    Reply
  • Nesto1000
    I have a feeling that it's going to be a lot more expensive than a user built gaming machine when you max out everything, but if it gets close to real PC gaming then I'm all for it! That means better PC console ports at least!
    Reply
  • amuffin
    Game Developers: FML.
    Reply
  • therabiddeer
    If I wanted a PC, I would get a PC. Why is a console trying to be a PC even more? I already have to sit through exhaustively long install times and load times and downloading of patches... what happened to consoles being a console? Quick loads, no installing, no updates because of shoddy development, no constant purchasing beyond the initial sale, selling the game back actually being possible... I miss these days.
    Reply
  • ben850
    I thought people buy consoles because they're simple to use? Now they have to worry about which upgrades they need in order to play game X?

    Throwing fragmentation into the console universe = bad idea IMO.
    Reply
  • fb39ca4
    Remember, these are all RUMORS!
    Reply
  • Oh great, imagine the cost of upgrade parts, they already milk you over $100 for a 200 GB hdd, and not to mention how much they charge for "microsoft Flash drives" and shit.

    I can foresee, a GPU upgrade costing well over $200.
    Reply
  • fb39ca4
    TheRabidDeerIf I wanted a PC, I would get a PC. Why is a console trying to be a PC even more? I already have to sit through exhaustively long install times and load times and downloading of patches... what happened to consoles being a console? Quick loads, no installing, no updates because of shoddy development, no constant purchasing beyond the initial sale, selling the game back actually being possible... I miss these days.Yeah, I miss Gen 6 and earlier. You just plugged in the cartridge/inserted the CD and you were good. There was no such thing as a patch, so developers tried to squash every bug they could find as there was no fixing them after release. Now, release is the new Beta.
    Reply
  • bobusboy
    ben850I thought people buy consoles because they're simple to use? Now they have to worry about which upgrades they need in order to play game X?Throwing fragmentation into the console universe = bad idea IMO.
    There will be the low, medium and high versions

    Games which are enthusiast level will be marked with a "requires enthusiast xbox" or what ever naming system they use. Normal games will be labeled normal, casual games named casual or entry.

    Additionally I'm positive they'd design a system so that the game automatically scales down and then abck up based on the hardware it detects
    Reply
  • rodbowler
    Perhaps they are trying to pre-empt the Valve console. Then they can use patent trolling to eliminate this possible competition.
    Reply