I think this discussion could be split into two parts:
What console would you build in reality and what console would you want to see built.
For me personally, I would first try to answer a few questions:
1. What price range can we get away with?
-This may be the most important question of them all since it will dictate how much hardware I can squeeze in and what features can be properly implemented. It also would help decide how much we are willing to lose on each console at launch in order to hit certain goals.
2. What is the 'mood' of the market?
- I would want to get a sense for what the gaming community and the general gamer public are looking for in a console. Then I would look at the wider market of consumers that are not necessarily gamers, but could be tempted to a powerful device that sits in the living room.
3. Decide how much 'risk' to take on
-This one is big too because I have to decide early on how risky my choices can be. I have to decide if doing things that have not been done before or have been done poorly in the past are worth investing in now or if I should play it safe and stick to what has worked. Do I embrace VR heavily along with motion controls, or do I stick to a traditional experience. Or maybe I come up with something that hasn't been attempted yet.
So for me, if I was trying to plan out a new console, I would first aim for as much hardware as can be squeezed into the budget.I just don't think there is a market for a $600-$800 console, so I would aim for $500. Within $500, I would want most of the hardware budget to go to the GPU and cut back on the cpu where I have to, so that would mirror what both Sony and MS chose to do. The cpu will be less important as more and more can be done on the gpu itself anyway, so that needs to get the bulk of the investment.
As far as the gpu, I would want to aim for mid-high end at the time the console is to launch. So that means working with AMD or Nvidia to get the most effective design based on their latest plans for cards that would be coming within the first year of launch. For the cpu, I would be fine with just mid range performance, but highly parallel, so something in the 6-12 core range would be nice. I want a high core count to allow for freedom in OS and feature designs. Everything outside of gaming itself will simply work better with a more flexible cpu. Speed of the cpu would not be a big priority, just something mid range again. For ram I would be looking at DDR4, GDDR5, or something more exotic like F-Ram or PRAM (both of which have recently been growing in density to reasonable levels) if pricing allowed it by the time we got to final production.
As for the hard drive, I would probably stick with a standard drive if I had to choose between using an ssd and cutting back on say ram or gpu. If I went with an SSD, it would have to be at least 500GB in size, so pricing would have to be very attractive to convince me that it was worth investing so much just for storage. I would definitely make it user replaceable though. As for the misc hardware in the box itself, I would want the usual stuff like a minimum of 4 usb ports, hdmi 2.0 ports and wireless ac/Wifi-Direct/bluetooth/miracast support.
For the overall design or look of the console, I would go with something a bit muted. Black of course, but also with a matte finish (no more gloss!). I'm not a fan of bubbly, rounded designs, so probably something with square edges. I would also prioritize cooling quality over physical looks if there is a choice to be made. If building the box a certain way means a quiet and cool running system, I'm taking it.
So with the console hardware down, then to consider the 'risk' part. I could bet on VR and motion controls with the hardware needed, but then I have to decide a budget for that stuff too and if its a viable platform all by itself. If I'm not going to bundle it at launch to stay in that $500 and investing all of that into the console box itself, I have to figure out what pricing avoids serious failure. $200, $300? Big prices and big risk for sure. I would have to invest a lot of money into developing the hardware and securing software to use with them, not to mention bring in developers anyway I could. Alternatively, I could bundle it with each console, but then that means I have to eat big losses on each package sold in order to hit the price and not change what I put into the console. I'm not sure which way I would go, but I would be very tempted to not introduce such a thing at all and then try something later.
Then of course the software side of things. I would want an OS that is flexible in usage and development, allowing for us to leverage the console for many things, including things outside of gaming. I would want to aggressively push updates to improve the experience and expand usage. I would want to pursue entertainment features to build into the system and be free to build in new gaming related features as the need arises. That also means it needs the right policies/tools so that developers of all types are encouraged to build games or apps for my platform. Open app stores, universal apps/games across platforms, free access to tools, server hardware, self publishing, etc, etc. I would want to aggressively pursue digital game features like rentals, sharing games with friends, or reselling them, not to mention attractive pricing and little things like the option to convert a retail game to a digital copy or at least able to install a game and not need the disc again. Hopefully I could convince developers/publishers to go along with it
Finally, there would be a heavy emphasis on marketing and engaging with the community. That means end users and developers alike. Work with them as much as I could before launch to try and iron out issues before launch whether that is issues with policies or technical concerns. Just try to make the experience more inclusive, hopefully resulting in more happy customers at launch.