Gamespot had a chance to sit down with Chris Satchell, general manager of the game developer group at Microsoft and pick his brain about IPTV, the video marketplace and of course, those pesky HDMI equipped Xbox 360 videos and photos. Let's get the burning question out of the way first - Did Microsoft confirm that a HDMI equipped Xbox 360 exists? The answer, it would seem, is both yes and no.
While never explicitly mentioning the HDMI-equipped 360, Satchell answered that anything we may have seen over the last few days is based on experimentation over at Microsoft's Redmond offices, but that there were no plans to actually release such a machine;
"GS: What can you tell us about the HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 rumors that have been going around?
CS: We're always working on prototypes and new technologies and just playing with stuff in Redmond to see what's interesting. I think at the moment we have the widest available connections on the system. If you want to get great HD, I think we've got a good solution for that. In the future it's interesting to see where standards evolve to. I think one of the problems that the whole industry, us and entertainment, are facing at the moment is we're in this world where standards are evolving very quickly.
We have different high-definition standards for discs that we know are competing at the moment. We think HD-DVD is going to be the right way to go, but really it's all about choice in that system so that's why we're offering these sort of services with downloads--skip that whole "format wars" problem. With other standards, audiovideo standards, they're evolving very quickly as well. We're obviously keeping an eye on that and saying, "What are the future standards and how do we give consumers the right choice for that?"
At the moment, everything you might have seen is just looking at our experimentation back in Redmond, not really a product that we're thinking about announcing." - Chris Satchell, general manager - Microsoft game developer group via Gamespot
So there you have it, odds are what we saw was something Microsoft was playing with, but not something they plan on announcing any time soon. While that's tantamount to saying "Yes, we have it", there's certainly enough wiggle room in that answer for any direction Microsoft may choose to go with it. Bottom line? They have at least one, if not more HDMI equipped Xbox 360 prototypes, so they are at least looking at the possibility of releasing an updated system with the connectors some time down the road.
That wasn't all Satchell had to talk about though. In addition to touting the Xbox 360's graphic capabilities when compared to the PlayStation 3, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace and some of the issues facing it (He states that Microsoft isn't really considering making a larger Xbox 360 hard drive available, but would consider it should 360 owners demand one), Satchell gave Gamespot a little more information on how IPTV will be brought to the 360 and whether the existing console hardware would be able to support it;
"GS: Is the IPTV feature going to be a dashboard update?
CS: How we're doing it at first is we're working with telecommunication partners who are intending to deliver an IPTV service and saying, "Here's a different kind of box you can use. Instead of just having a standard set-top box, use an Xbox 360. It gives you new services to provide your customers, and for gamers it gives them a really cool combination of next-generation television and next-generation gaming."
I think where you'll first see it will be in partnership with these telco partners who are doing IPTV. Now, later on, we're looking at, "Well, should we do an update to allow people who've got just an Xbox 360 to get to some of the same services rather than having to get it from a telco?" We're looking at both, but first you're going to see it from our partners.
GS: If Microsoft chooses to make IPTV available to all Xbox 360 owners, will upgrading be as simple as a dashboard update?
CS: If we do open it up so that our current users can get to the service, we're not quite sure how we'll deliver it. Of course, we have a great system with [Xbox] Live, so it's entirely possible that we could do it as an upgrade. It's entirely possible we could give it to you on a disc and you could just install it. There are all sorts of ways we can give it to you. Obviously our preference normally is to do everything online because that's where people are at." - Chris Satchell, general manager - Microsoft game developer group via Gamespot
On the subject of IPTV pricing, Satchell simply stated that the price plans would be determined by the service providers, not Microsoft.
The interview is definitely something all Xbox 360 owners should take a look at, as it concerns itself with not just some interesting features that Microsoft is looking to bring to the table, but really is a look at where the future of the Xbox 360 could be headed. At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest again, it raises the question of whether Microsoft will be bringing IPTV home via a HDMI Equipped, larger hard drive bearing, cable ready Xbox 360.
Those interested in finding out more can find the full Gamespot interview at this link.