UPDATE: Scribd.com has removed the original document from their site as a response to a request from the law firm Covington & Burling known to represent Microsoft. A pdf version is still available as a torrent by clicking this magnet link.
An internal Microsoft strategy document that appears to be genuine has been discovered by NeoGAF poster jeff_rigby on Scribd.com outlines Redmond’s broad strategy for their post-360 console hardware. The 54 page document labeled “720 9/24” describes a system 8 times as powerful as the Xbox 360 that will include a Blu-ray drive, whole house DVR capabilites, and an upgraded Kinect v.2 with four player tracking and HD video capture.
The block diagram below shows a system with a 6-8 core x86 or ARM-based CPU, 4GBs of RAM, a separate ARM-based, dual core embedded CPU for low power media functionality, AND the original tri-core PowerPC CPU from the 360 for backwards compatibility. Despite all that they are targeting a system that will operate at 120 watts, a little more than half the power dissipated by the launch 360 and PS3. They are also targeting a $299 price point, including Kinect packed in with each console, and a launch in 2013.
The document also points to a 2012 launch of a so called “Xbox 361” designed as a low cost 360 intended for “every person and room in your house”. This meshes well with the Xbox Loop rumors that surfaced earlier this year pointing towards an inexpensive Xbox branded Roku/AppleTV competitor.
Further in the future, Microsoft is also predicting cloud services supplanting local gaming, meaning this next generation will be the last hardware generation. In 2014 they are predicting breakthroughs in head-tracking, immersive displays and so called “ambient entertainment” using augmented reality glasses.
If real, the full document is a fascinating look at Microsoft’s psychology going in to the next generation. It’s clear their ambition is to make Xbox (and Xbox Live Gold membership fees, presumably) an indispensable feature of home entertainment by tying terrestrial broadcast television, cable and sat services, internet based video and music, and their own big gaming franchises to a single box that you never have to switch away from on your big screen at home. The future tech referenced is a bit more fanciful, and it remains to be seen how true they can be to these projections in actual execution.
With so much effort going in to media and casual focused features it is also a question if this vision with resonate with the hard core early adopters. If Microsoft ends up selling directly through cable providers it may not even need to. Sony’s message at E3 this year seems to presage the lines that will be drawn in next gen, with PlayStation doubling down on core gaming while MS chases media features and casual gamers. According to this presentation, MS themselves expect the PS4 to launch simultaneous with the 720 with “tech forward” (ie, more powerful) hardware.
In any case, we are in for a very interesting battle next year.