So, this morning I was having a retro moment and wondered about the original Xbox, the classic one from 2001 which was so popular. It was build on a pseudo Windows system with an Intel processor. Then I remembered the PS2 slim which was reintroduced long after the PS3 had taken over as Sony’s flagship and how Sega have also licensed their technology to create retro clones.

If we look at the Xbox1’s original specification:

CPU: 700MHz Pentium III Coppermine
RAM: 64MB DDR1 @ 200MHz
GPU: Custom NVidia ASIC @ 233MHz
Audio: NVidia custom Surround Processor
Storage: 8GB IDE HDD
Optical: DVD-ROM
Security: Secure BIOS
Extras: 100Mbit Ethernet, Analogue Component HD, USB1.1, and other AV connectors

So, when you compare this to the CE 3100 from Intel, which is being used by set-top box vendors to build the next generation of multimedia products, you find some interesting parallels:

CPU: +800MHz Pentium-M
RAM: Up to 3GB DDR2
GPU: Intel GMA500 (PowerVR SGX 535)
Audio: Dual core 337MHz DSP processors
Storage: Flash or SATA
Optical: DVD via SATA
Security: Crypto-processor
Extras: GBit Ethernet, HDMI, USB2, and other AV connectors

So, Dear Microsoft, why not ‘Reload’ the old XBox classic as a new product and get some revenue from that old architecture? The CE range supports DirectX 9, so there should be legacy support for the graphics calls. I don’t know how the GMA 500 compares to the Xbox1’s custom ASIC but they are 8-9 years apart in development so they can’t be too different. If there are differences they might be resolved with a bucket of faster DDR2 RAM and the better CPU clock.

I would imagine an XBox Reloaded spec would look something like this:

SoC: Intel CE3100
RAM: 256MB of DDR2 @ 800MHz (a bucket extra useful for other things)
Storage: 8GB of Flash (shouldn’t need more, but can utilise USB 2 flash or HDD)
Optical: Slimline DVD-ROM
AV: HDMI, TOSLink, Composite
Networking: 100Mbit ethernet (GBit might increase power/cost)

The whole thing should be able to emulate the Xbox’s original design without much special assistance, just the addition of SATA support to the microkernel, modification of the security mechanism and replacement of the graphics drivers (the highest risk element). If there was any problem with this it might even be possible to use a microkernel bootloader or BIOS to emulate the IDE on SATA in legacy mode and possibly even map the GPU calls. I would put a bootloader on the box which booted a version of MeeGo Linux stored in Flash as an alternative media player tool and possible DVD player alternative function.

Thus you would have a decent media player, a TV browser and a most importantly of all: a very cool retro-games console capable of playing games like Halo, Project Gotham Racing, MotoGP and Splinter Cell. All for under £100 retail! I know you can get a new Xbox 360 for £160 but there is always a market for the retro and a lower end product. The return on investment could be good and it could reach new markets as a “computer for all” in developing markets!

 

There pop-up on the forums from time-to-time, and they complain why we don’t have one feature or another. In the latest thread on DigitalSpy they complained that our product didn’t feature 1080p, or DiVx decoding. So, I thought I wanted to post something on DigitalSpy, however common sense and experience tells me if I post it there I might regret it because it could be a reactionary posting by me, so I will post it here to vent:

It depends on where you are targeting a product in the market as a manufacturer. We pay a licence for all technology we use (this may be different than you experience) for example we even have to pay a royalty for the use of Phono connectors. It would be a cost for us and eventually for the consumer, we already have people complaining about cost, should we limit our market further?

I won’t defend the scaler in the product, I have been over this issue countless times. Personally I recommend if you aren’t satisfied with the scaler to use the “Original” mode. We manufacture Televisions as well, and I know that the scaler chip we use can cost as much as the entire MPEG decoder chip (in a good TV). In a TV part of the cost you are paying for is the scaler, if we put a dedicated scaler chip in our STB product you would effectively be wasting the money you spent on your LCD TV and paying double.

An experience of using the scaler in a DVD player is more about ensuring the quality of the output of the DVD decoder and is mostly enhanced by using HDMI output for a digital-to-digital movement of signals.

In the end it comes down to a matter of choice, as a manufacturer we make choices that we have to balance (costs/sales) and the consumer has to make a choice to decide if the product is right for them. We make the product we feel most appropriate to make, we even take feedback, but ultimately the we are responsible for the choices and how they affect our sales. Some might even say they don’t have a choice because we are the only manufacturer of Freesat approved HD PVRs, that is still about choice, you don’t have to buy anything or you can buy a non-Freesat product or you can wait until another manufacturer decides to make a product.”

At least here I can remove it…