Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tech: Xbox 360 Elite Misgivings

At heart, I've always been a Microsoft apologist. I never found other operating systems much better than Windows, and I've always thought Microsoft's actual applications worked fairly well. On the gaming front, the original Xbox, while big and clunky, was pretty robust for a first effort at a video game console. MS has also been pretty good about putting up the cash for new IPs and development tools, which is probably why most game developers gush about them.

The Xbox 360 was a bit of a misstep, frankly. It's no secret the 360s have a relatively high rate of product defects, and were prone to all sorts of maladies (overheating was a likely culprit). They were also noisy and even the premium versions had a scant 20 gigs of space, which isn't much when Live Marketplace has HD content up for download.

So here comes the 360 Elite. Essentially, it's a 360 Premium with a 120 gig hard drive, HDMI, and (perhaps) quieter, cooler, better circuitry. I've never been a fan of the multiple-stock-keeping-unit technique myself, and now Microsoft has three SKUs up for sale (Core, Premium, and Elite). I know Windows and other software has been doing this for years, but it seems disingenuous for MS to released a "fixed" 360 and charge $480 for it, especially with their incredulous denials of any problem with the 360 design (not to mention their hilariously incompetent customer "service"). Another problem is that MS is not operating in a vacuum - even the low-level Sony PS3 includes Blu-Ray and a hard drive; and the 360 Elite doesn't include HD-DVD, making it look overpriced compared to Sony's machine.


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