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View Full Version : Microsoft "Freon" (XBOX 2??)


mkdevo
07-02-02, 12:16 AM
http://www.msnbc.com/news/774751.asp#BODY


July 1 — Its code name is “Freon,” reflecting the notion that it is the coolest secret project at Microsoft Corp. these days, at least in the eyes of the Xbox video-game division.

WHAT FREON STANDS FOR is a souped-up successor to the Xbox console — capable of playing games but also offering television capabilities, such as pausing live TV and recording shows onto a computer hard drive, say people familiar with the effort. Though it is unclear whether such a product will ever be built, its core concept appears to have the backing of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who wrote in an internal memorandum in January that he was a “big fan” of a machine that would combine video services with gaming.
Such a device, which could cost around $500, would have another big advantage: It could beat video-game market leader Sony Corp. to the punch.
Microsoft officials are mulling releasing some kind of new game machine sometime next year or in 2004, say people familiar with the matter. That timing could shake up the $20 billion global video-game market, breaking a long-established pattern of developing and releasing new systems in roughly five-year cycles. Sony, the undisputed leader in a three-way race with Microsoft and Nintendo Co., isn’t expected to release its next PlayStation system until 2005.
“The utmost goal is to ship something before Sony,” says a person familiar with Microsoft’s plans. Changing development cycles could be particularly threatening to Sony, which relies more than Microsoft on specialized computer chips that take years to design. “My biggest concern is if Microsoft or Nintendo try to change the rules of the market,” says Shinichi Okamoto, chief technology officer at Sony’s game unit, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. “I can imagine several [ways]. The first one is very simple — launching an annual new model: Xbox 2002, Xbox 2003.”
Microsoft officials won’t comment on Freon. But the software titan has been playing catch-up to Sony since it introduced the Xbox last year. Though Microsoft hoped the introduction of a hard disk and other features would inspire developers to write more exciting games than for the PlayStation 2, Sony’s hardware has retained an edge among consumers and programmers.
“It’s amazing how far we have come, and yet we still have to get people to see Xbox as even more of a breakthrough than they do today,” wrote Mr. Gates in the internal e-mail sent to top Xbox executives in January.
Officially, Microsoft says the current Xbox has been an early success. The company’s focus right now is on selling more Xbox consoles this coming Christmas season, says John O’Rourke, director of Xbox sales and marketing. At the same time, “we have to be thinking about the future,” Mr. O’Rourke says.
Microsoft officials are also mum about the release date for the Xbox console’s next version, known as “Xbox Next,” expected about 2005 or 2006. Still, the various Xbox projects inside Microsoft — as well as Mr. Gates’s musings in his memo — show Microsoft is serious about overhauling Xbox, if necessary, to strengthen its challenge to Sony.
A key pressure is economics: The Xbox console isn’t profitable for the Redmond, Wash., company and its costs are believed to be higher than Sony’s, partly because of the hard drive and a version of its powerful Windows operating system included with each machine. While “the Xbox is a full-feature BMW, the PS2 is a Toyota,” says Bruno Bonnell, chairman and chief executive of French game maker Infogrames Entertainment SA.
But many gamers prefer the more practical Toyota. Sony has shipped about 32 million PlayStation 2 machines world-wide, while Microsoft was expected to have shipped only 3.5 million to four million Xboxes by Sunday, the end of its fiscal year. Microsoft, which lowered sales expectations earlier this year, insists its more-powerful machine eventually will win over customers.

Mr. O’Rourke says the machine’s hard drive helps deliver features like the voice commentary on Microsoft’s “NFL Fever” football game. Microsoft also recently showcased a new Xbox game called “Blinx: The Time Sweeper,” which allows players to record moves they have made in the game and replay them at different speeds in the future.
“That is something you can only do with a hard disk,” Mr. O’Rourke says.
Still, Mr. Gates doesn’t seem convinced. In his memo, sent after one of his periodic “think weeks” away from the office, he mused about whether a hard drive would be necessary for Xbox’s online-gaming service, expected to be launched later this year. “Do we really know that you have to have a disk to do online?” Mr. Gates wrote. “I think it’s probably right, but say Sony tries to do online without it — how bad will it really be?”
Mr. Gates also tossed out a thought he described as “heretical,” wondering whether Microsoft will have to “back down” from its plan to offer online gaming only over high-speed Internet connections. That plan has been criticized because so few U.S. computer users have high-speed connections.
Mr. Gates received a briefing about the Freon product last week, a person familiar with the matter said, and also presided over a pep rally of sorts for a larger Xbox group. When asked about Freon at the meeting, Xbox chief Robbie Bach said there were no definite plans for deployment, this person said.

Mr. Gates has long been fascinated with extending Microsoft’s Windows software into the living room, though Microsoft stumbled with most of its previous TV efforts. And many in the video-game industry wonder if consumers would pay $500 — compared with the $199 Xbox — for a complicated home-entertainment machine.
“I worry about what I call feature creep — layering too many things into a product so the original intent of the product gets lost,” says Schelley Olhava, an analyst with International Data Corp.

zig
07-02-02, 12:45 AM
:( go away microsoft. I love it that I can buy a 200 dollar box and it provides lots of gaming fun for 5 years or more. I don't think console gamers want a new console every year or 2 years or even 3 years. They're trying PC tactics in the console market and I don't like it. I hope they fail, or at least they don't influence sony or nintendo.

Kellehair
07-02-02, 12:47 AM
Bill's lucky he has more money than God.

Josh H
07-02-02, 01:03 AM
It wouldn't be every 2 or 3 years. It says 2005 or 6, and most places have hinted at 2006 for Xbox 2, which would be 5 years after the launch of the X-box.

I guess this proves Gates is determined to make a set top box that does everything.

$500 would be a ridiculous cost as well. It will be tough for them to sell it for much less if they are going to include Tivo type features, dvd player, hard drive, broadband adapter etc.

The X-box costs $325 to makes, so they're already losing a bunch of money on each X-box they sell.

I'd have thought they'd want to cut costs next time around.

Plus, I just don't thing casual gamers care about crap like Tivo features, and most home theater enthusiasts already have a Tivo or Replay TV.

Hopefully they'll wise up and just build a powerful gaming machine, but I doubt it.

Gates is determined to rule the home theater, to go along with his computer monopoly.

Outlaw
07-02-02, 01:12 AM
Originally posted by mkdevo
And many in the video-game industry wonder if consumers would pay $500 — compared with the $199 Xbox — for a complicated home-entertainment machine.


The answer to this is easy, no one. No one bought the 3DO when it was $500, and no one bought the CD-i or the Neo Geo cartridge either because they were too expensive for a video game console. Launching a new system so soon would suck major to my wallet. I hope console prices stay at least $300 or less (for new ones that is), thats a ton of money as it is. I don't think they'll release it so soon.....would they...?

Josh H
07-02-02, 01:21 AM
Again, the article says 2005 or 2006. Most other articles say 2006, which is the normal 5 year gap between consoles as the X-box launched in 2001.

Outlaw
07-02-02, 01:35 AM
whoops heheh, I pushed the reply button before you replied but didn't push the http://www.dvdtalk.com/images/reply.gif button until after you posted because I went to get something to drink and didn't see your reply about the expected release :blush:. I read it now :D

zig
07-02-02, 02:13 AM
Hmm.. yeah I guess the xbox2 would be 5 years.. but what's that other thing they're talking about for next year or 2004?

Anyway.. I don't think most consumers want a gaming machine/tivo/whatever else they're gonna stick in their all in one. Piling things together isn't a good idea.

neale
07-02-02, 02:19 AM
I hope they don't pull a Nintendo and instead make the new system backward compatible with the old games. (Like PS2 had the wisdom to do.)

gcribbs
07-02-02, 02:47 AM
adding features to the xbox to make it an xbox plus for $500 will only make it more likely to create incompatibilities that might effect game play :(

dumb moves - make a set top box for that and make a game console for gaming.

Gallant Pig
07-02-02, 03:41 AM
Is there any chance they will have two versions both released at the same time? One stripped down for gaming and one loaded with juicy extras. If the juicy one is a good bargain I might get it, I want Tivo bad.

Jackskeleton
07-02-02, 03:51 AM
why is everyone getting pissy? this is what happens every few years (or weeks for that matter) with CPU's.

I don't even care to think what I need to buy in order to play DOOM III. ;) :p

Groucho
07-02-02, 08:31 AM
Originally posted by Jackskeleton
why is everyone getting pissy? this is what happens every few years (or weeks for that matter) with CPU's.Well that's the whole point of console gaming, isn't it? To play games that will always be compatable without tweaking, on a $200 system that is around for 5 years instead of a $2000 system that is around for 2.

Josh H
07-02-02, 10:21 AM
Originally posted by neale
I hope they don't pull a Nintendo and instead make the new system backward compatible with the old games. (Like PS2 had the wisdom to do.)

The N64 used cartridges, the Gamecube uses mini-DVDs. There was no practical way to make it backwards compatible.

The Gameboy Advance is backwards compatible with Gameboy and Gameboy Color games.

joshd2012
07-02-02, 11:37 AM
Sounds like Microsoft has a bit of a problem here. Microsoft wants to release a system before Sony, but if they do that, they turn back on all their fans who purchased the X-box. The new PS3 is scheduled to be released in 2005 in Japan, which means that Microsoft will have to have a product ready for Japan by 2004/early 2005. That is only a few years between releases in Japan which will make them lose tons of consumers. Also, did anyone notice those quotes from Bill looked a little doubtful of his product?

Groucho
07-02-02, 11:47 AM
Originally posted by joshd2012
Sounds like Microsoft has a bit of a problem here. Microsoft wants to release a system before Sony, but if they do that, they turn back on all their fans who purchased the X-box.The only way they'd pull it off is if they made it backwards compatable with Xbox games. Obviously they are mimicing Sony's strategy of "get in a year early and dominate the market" which works so well because most households only have one console. Of course, when Sega tried this they failed, largely due to the number of people who chose to wait for PS2. How many people will decide to wait for PS3 rather than play Kabuki Warriors: Freon Edition?

Lewsiv
07-02-02, 12:06 PM
Can't we just have game systems be game systems? Why do we have to have recordable tv and all the other frilly extras that drive the price up? Just put a new system ever 5 years, make it backwards compatible and make it affordable.

gcribbs
07-02-02, 12:26 PM
Originally posted by Groucho
The only way they'd pull it off is if they made it backwards compatable with Xbox games. Obviously they are mimicing Sony's strategy of "get in a year early and dominate the market" which works so well because most households only have one console. Of course, when Sega tried this they failed, largely due to the number of people who chose to wait for PS2. How many people will decide to wait for PS3 rather than play Kabuki Warriors: Freon Edition?

being backwards compatible will not help. if developers develop for the new system then the old XBox becomes an orphan forcing all current owners to upgrade again sooner than they expected to.

this is not a PS1 issue where it had moved thru the 5 years and had 50-60 million consoles in the market at the time so continued developer support happened for a while.

the XBox has a very small base of under 4 million. if the XBoxfreon or 2 or whatever appears the XBox 1 would not see games. or even worse all games would be developed for the older console(like most pc games using the lowest specs of computers) meaning the Freon purchasers would not even have needed to spend the increased money to get the newer console because all the games run on the old console.

They need to focus on getting more games to market- I still see Halo being sold for $49.99 in ads :(

this game should be $19.99 by now with many of the older games at that price to push more sales of the console. They need more numbers of consoles to compete not a faster cpu or Tivo.

s}{ammer
07-02-02, 12:38 PM
This is exactly why I am so hesitant to buy an x-box. I know it has more power and more potential but is it worth it in the end? It sounds like Bill is totally trying to make the console market the same as the PC market and that sucks to me. I just got back in the console market and I am having a ton of fun with my PS2 but the thought of buying a new game system every 2 or 3 years is not very appealing. Also, his comments did seem to be filled with doubt and if they go back on the "broadband only" approach it will be obvious that they are feeling major heat.

AgtFox
07-02-02, 01:20 PM
Originally posted by gcribbs
They need to focus on getting more games to market- I still see Halo being sold for $49.99 in ads :(

this game should be $19.99 by now with many of the older games at that price to push more sales of the console. They need more numbers of consoles to compete not a faster cpu or Tivo.

I think this is going a bit far. You have to give a game at least 9 months to a year before it can be priced at the price point you state above. Notice that just recently some PS2 games that are 9+ months old went into a Greatest Hits line.

The X-Box will only be 9 months old this month. Most of the PS2 games in the Greatest Hits line came 6+ months after initial system rollout (Twisted Metal Black, GT3, Onimusha, etc.). I feel it is fine that Halo is still at its initial price point at this time. I would reckon that they will reduce the price before Christmas, but who knows.

By the way, I own all 3 consoles, so I'm not trying to be biased here.

neale
07-02-02, 01:23 PM
Originally posted by joshhinkle


The N64 used cartridges, the Gamecube uses mini-DVDs. There was no practical way to make it backwards compatible.

The Gameboy Advance is backwards compatible with Gameboy and Gameboy Color games.



Original NES
Super NES
Nintendo 64
Gamecube

Each successive system was completely incompatible with the preceding one.

I agree that they DID do things right with the Gameboy series.

belboz
07-02-02, 02:58 PM
I only skimmed through the article yesterday, so you'll have to excuse me if I misread it somehow. It appears to me, though, that the article talked about two different things. One was the XBox Freon which is a "souped-up" XBox that MS is considering for release sometime in 2003 or 2004. The other is the true next generation XBox (XBox Next?), which they said wasn't expected until 2005 or 2006.

So, my guess is that this XBox Freon product would really just be a standard XBox except with some Tivo and improved MP3 functionality tacked on. For game developers, these changes would be transparent and for all intents and purposes, non-existent. All games would continue to work the same on either regular XBox or XBox Freon. So basically, consumers would continue to have a choice of paying $199 for a regular XBox or $499 for an XBox with Tivo and MP3 features.

As such, I think the article is wrong in speculating that such a product would "leapfrog" Sony. Its price point clearly puts it in a different market segment. It's really more of a Tivo that happens to have game playing features rather than the other way around. One of the market segments where the XBox has been most successful is with HT enthusiasts. They are very casual gamers, but they have HD and 5.1, so the XBox is a natural fit for them. An XBox Freon would mainly be targeted such a market.

It's somewhat of a limited market, but at $499, they'd probably be making a small profit since the only hardware changes needed would be a larger HD and a video capture chip. They have the software and the backend EPG systems already in place from Ultimate TV, so I think part of what attracts such a product to Bill is that it leverages many things that MS already has.

spankyj
07-02-02, 03:25 PM
Seems like "broadband only" is being doubted by the big man himself now too. And to think of all the wasted time arguing over the issue here. Very interesting article, thanks for finding and posting it.

zig
07-02-02, 04:16 PM
Well, true that the 500$ tivo/xbox would be marketed at HT enthusiasts, but any self respecting HT enthusiast most likely has a TiVo type device already.

I don't know what they're thinking. Maybe they just need to get rid of a few billion dollars.

Christo
07-02-02, 05:59 PM
Originally posted by neale
I hope they don't pull a Nintendo and instead make the new system backward compatible with the old games. (Like PS2 had the wisdom to do.)

Who really cares about backwards compatible?

When you pull out the old games, pull out the old system. It's easy unless you're really touchy about your closet space.

DARTH GAMER
07-02-02, 07:58 PM
Originally posted by Christo


Who really cares about backwards compatible?

When you pull out the old games, pull out the old system. It's easy unless you're really touchy about your closet space.

I don't know how everyone else feels about backwards compatability, but I love not having to keep switching systems. That is one of the biggest sellers in my eyes for the PS2.

DARTH GAMER

Josh H
07-02-02, 10:08 PM
Originally posted by neale

Original NES
Super NES
Nintendo 64
Gamecube

Each successive system was completely incompatible with the preceding one.


That's true, but before the PS2, nothing was backwards compatible, except maybe the later Atari systems.

Nintendo's previous competion, Sega, didn't do backwards compatibility either.

It was more difficult in the cartridge era, as they wanted to make the cartridges for the different systems look different, plus engineering comes into play.

Backwards compatibility with CD/DVD systems is much easier as all that is necessary is making sure the processor can read the old games.

I imagine every new system will feature backwards compatibility. Well, until some other form of media is used anyway.

Kdogg
07-02-02, 10:38 PM
Originally posted by joshhinkle


That's true, but before the PS2, nothing was backwards compatible, except maybe the later Atari systems.

Nintendo's previous competion, Sega, didn't do backwards compatibility either.

It was more difficult in the cartridge era, as they wanted to make the cartridges for the different systems look different, plus engineering comes into play.

Backwards compatibility with CD/DVD systems is much easier as all that is necessary is making sure the processor can read the old games.

I imagine every new system will feature backwards compatibility. Well, until some other form of media is used anyway.


Although it was not built it, the Genesis did have a $30 adapter to play Master System games. The option was not really popular but Sega did have the idea to give users backward compatibility. Personally I never though backward compatibility was a real selling out. If you have the old game, you probably have the old system. All it does is reduce clutter in the entertainment center which is nice to not essential.

Josh H
07-02-02, 10:56 PM
I agree. It's just an added plus. I don't use it personally though. I've yet to play a PS1 game in my PS2. I played them all on my PS1 years ago.

I hardly have the time or money to keep up with the new releases on the PS2, Gamecube and GBA, much less to dabble in classic gaming as well.

joshd2012
07-02-02, 11:12 PM
Originally posted by Christo

Who really cares about backwards compatible?


Me. I still play PSX games on my PS2 and I plan on playing PS2 games on my PS3. Backwarks compatiblity is great. I just wonder if the PS3 will beable to play PSX games, or if I'm going to have to purchase a PSOne?

zig
07-03-02, 12:01 AM
Yeah that'd be a real pity if you had to buy a 50 dollar psone :p

Backwards compatibility doesnt matter to me. If I have games for an old system, I most definitely must have the old system. The only way I can see it as being a great benefit to me is if the console has crappy launch titles so you're forced to get old games instead.

Josh H
07-03-02, 12:12 AM
Originally posted by zig
The only way I can see it as being a great benefit to me is if the console has crappy launch titles so you're forced to get old games instead.

But if a console had crappy launch titles, why would you buy it a launch? ;)

gcribbs
07-03-02, 02:41 AM
Originally posted by AgtFox


I think this is going a bit far. You have to give a game at least 9 months to a year before it can be priced at the price point you state above. Notice that just recently some PS2 games that are 9+ months old went into a Greatest Hits line.

The X-Box will only be 9 months old this month. Most of the PS2 games in the Greatest Hits line came 6+ months after initial system rollout (Twisted Metal Black, GT3, Onimusha, etc.). I feel it is fine that Halo is still at its initial price point at this time. I would reckon that they will reduce the price before Christmas, but who knows.

By the way, I own all 3 consoles, so I'm not trying to be biased here.

sorry I disagree here. they have fallen into third place in this console generation. this is a great game and they need to push this one and maybe others into the $19.99 price point to show that they also have great titles at low prices for those families thinking of buying it.

Instead they keep the price high while the PS2 has a bunch of games at lower price points driving sales of consoles.

I know people who are now going to buy a PS2 with the price drop and pick up a few of these greatest hits games. For the old price of $299 you can get the PS2 and 5 of these great games or the XBox and two games.

Josh H
07-03-02, 12:12 PM
I agree with gcribbs. If Halo and some other games had been around $19.99-$29.99 I would have had a tougher time deciding between a PS2 and Xbox.

Future lineups didn't come into play too much, as I know the Gamecube will keep me busy for quite sometime with future releases.

And on the PS2 I could get games like Gran Turismo 3 and Maximo in the $19.99-$29.99 range now, with the expectation of games like Metal Gear Solid 2, Grand Theft Auto 3, Devil May Cry, etc. dropping in price in the next 6 months to a year.

But everyone might no reason this way. I simply wanted a second system to give me more games to play when I need to fill a lull between big Gamecube releases, so the great games at cheaper prices was a big selling point for me.

So far it's worked. I borrowed FFX and that kept me busy between Resident Evil and Eternal Darkness. I haven't gotten all that far in Maximo and Gran Tursimo, so those should keep me busy until Mario Sunshine's release after finishing Eternal Darkness.