Rumor: Next Xbox console to have ARM-based processors?

What will the next game console from Microsoft be like? There are lots of rumors floating about the Internet on this subject, already even though Microsoft might not launch the hardware until 2013 or 2014. Now a new rumor from MS nerd claims to have some interesting inside information about the next Microsoft game console.

MS_Nerd's site claims to get inside info about Microsoft's various projects: the blog previously issued correct details about the company's now canceled Courier tablet project well before anyone else. So while we are taking this info with a big grain of salt we are also considering the source of the info.

The blog states that Microsoft and two unnamed companies are designing the processor for the next console which it claims is using a design from ARM. If true that would certainly be a big sea change compared to the Xbox 360's Power PC-based chip. The blog states that the processor will have a main processor core along with "multiple dedicated assistive cores for graphics, AI, physics, sound, networking, encryption and sensors."

Furthermore, the blog states that the next game console from Microsoft will have an modified OS core based on Windows 9 (Windows 8 hasn't even been launched yet). Finally the next Xbox is supposed to be cheaper and lighter than the Xbox 360.

So is any of this stuff really true or is "MS nerd" making us bark up the wrong side of the tree this week? Having a console that is smaller and cheaper that the current Xbox 360 would seem like a no-brainer to Microsoft, especially if they ever want to crack into the Japanese market which has failed to generate much in Xbox 360 sales.

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KingCrimson said,
Why not with core i7 instead?

the intel cpu instruction set includes a lot of things that'll be unused in a game console. GPU power is mainly what they'll be needing to pump out 1080hd/3d content and with more and more code running things on the GPU the CPU can be doing some very basic tasks that doesn't need MMX, VMX and the rather of other things.

Remember, our desktop CPUs are general processors that are designed to do most things fast, but they are limited as they cram as much as they can into the small die and back in the ealier gaming days, desktop machines used to use the CPU to render games. Now its mostly handed over to GPUs that are 100x of times faster then a i7 CPU when it comes to cranking out floating point numbers.

This makes sense, especially if they're going to market the xbox as a living room media center, they don't want it using 342524 watts of power like it does now.

greenwizard88 said,
This makes sense, especially if they're going to market the xbox as a living room media center, they don't want it using 342524 watts of power like it does now.

and actually quiet. The slim is quieter but still louder than anything under the TV.

I think the new Xbox will be nice bump in performance but nothing that impacts heat, size and noise. Third times a charm.

If they went with ARM, they'd need lots of cores.. lots. I can see the ARM CPU as the CPU that runs the OS, more like a Co-processor, but I would still think they'd have a CPU that can push out serious performance.

I predict that yes is will be smaller for sure. MS intends to get rid of the DVD drive entirely on consoles, so any future console of theirs will surely be smaller then anything we have now. I predict them pushing some kind of secure "Flash Drive" based game distribution or online only for their next console.

As far as the "Type" of processor used, who really gives a flying ****? It will be "better" then our current gen consoles, that's all that matters. Unless your some kind console hacker/developer the nature of the process means jack squat to you as an end user.

So here's what we know for sure the next XBOX 360 is going to have, going down from most likely to most speculative:

1080p High Def Support
5.1 Channel Surround Sound
Better Graphics/Physics then current gen systems due to better processors
XBOX Live Online Gaming Support
120GB+ "Internal/External" Modular HDD Storage (ALA XBOX 360, but "Different")
Probably the exact same controllers we use now for the XBOX360 (minor update in look/design)
Probably the exact same Kinect or a Kinect+ because of newly implemented console hardware allowing it to function better.

What more do you need to know? It will be the same, just perform better. I don't expect there to be any kind of dramatic leap in added functionality from this gen to the next. Just better looking games, and only then if the developers bother to USE the consoles potential. MS certainly isn't going to REDUCE current gen functionality. I also imagine MS will make every attempt possible to make XBOX/XBOX360 games compatible with it as well, so that players who bought those titles through XBOX Live can still play them. Perhaps some kind of "Cloud" gaming system similar to OnLive if the console itself cant run them, so that players with XBOX Live access will still be able to play their older games.

este said,
Wont be cheaper. thats for sure.

Current price points for consoles are pretty good already, not sure if those will change, but Microsoft is probably highly interested in making the devices cheaper to produce so they can have increased margins (or any margins at all).

Wow, I guess I figured all consoles were ARM. Guess I was wrong about the 360 until now... although the fact that the 360's PPC-based does sound vaguely familiar...

MASTER260 said,
Wow, I guess I figured all consoles were ARM. Guess I was wrong about the 360 until now... although the fact that the 360's PPC-based does sound vaguely familiar...

Yeah, the early 360 software development was done on dual-processor Power Mac towers I believe.

Stetson said,

Yeah, the early 360 software development was done on dual-processor Power Mac towers I believe.

yep and when MS rolled them into the building to work on development of the system everyone screamed OMG MICROSOFT BUYS MACS! THE WORLD IS ENDING!

I just hope that by making it cheaper, they don't make it with cheap parts. I'm looking at you 360 with your Foxconn crap

Rumour: Next Gen Xbox will come with free pornography subscription

Yup, Microsoft's new console MAY come with a free subscription to a porn mag, though it may not.

This is a RUMOUR!! There is no evidence until Microsoft announces they are using an ARM based processor. Sick of all these rumoured posts

No way, ARM is only 32bit and the next generation of ARM that is 64bit is too far out (2014). It would create several issues like limited to 3GB of system memory, recoding of older games from a 64bit instruction set to 32bit, etc. It certainly would be a step backwards going from PPC to ARM.

Gungel said,
No way, ARM is only 32bit and the next generation of ARM that is 64bit is too far out (2014). It would create several issues like limited to 3GB of system memory, recoding of older games from a 64bit instruction set to 32bit, etc. It certainly would be a step backwards going from PPC to ARM.

Seeing as the current Xbox 360 has 512MB of memory, 3GB doesn't really seem like a problem. Remember this is a low cost mass market game console, not a gaming PC.

Stetson said,

Seeing as the current Xbox 360 has 512MB of memory, 3GB doesn't really seem like a problem. Remember this is a low cost mass market game console, not a gaming PC.

And it wouldn't necessarily be limited to 3GB or even 4GB. The 32-bit ARM architecture has PAE support for up to 40-bit memory addresses. That's as much as 1 TB of RAM that can be addressed.

On Windows, PAE is essentially a non-starter because a lot of third-party device drivers are unstable with PAE turned on. This is not the case on a console, where Microsoft has control over all the drivers.

A console is just very different from the PC world. Thanks to consistency of specs, you can really push the hardware as far as it'll go.

the main CPU as ARM? seriously doubt it, auxiliary chips in the system? sure... it has ARM chips already in the 360, just not the main CPU... the network controller is ARM based

Konstantine said,
But Intel/AMD are more powerful than ARM. A 3,4GHz ARM CPU isn't the same as a 3,4GHz Intel/AMD CPU...

And game consoles almost never have hardware performance that rivals current gen PC hardware. Consoles have decent, consistent performance that is usually a bit slow compared to the latest and greatest, but since they're all exactly the same developers can optimize very well. This also keeps the cost down, and helps with issues like overheating.

Stetson said,

And game consoles almost never have hardware performance that rivals current gen PC hardware. Consoles have decent, consistent performance that is usually a bit slow compared to the latest and greatest, but since they're all exactly the same developers can optimize very well. This also keeps the cost down, and helps with issues like overheating.

The 360 is different in that respect because it was released before comparable hardware was even out.

Actually, I'd be surprised if a change of architecture didn't happen.

Apple moved off PowerPC due to the low performance per Watt numbers. To get decent performance, too much power was required, resulting in higher thermals versus the Intel side.

After the RRoD problems, which more or less took 5 years to resolve mainly through die shrinks, I don't expect MS to continue with PowerPC.

I'd bet on an ARM or Intel/AMD (again) based Xbox

If they keep with PowerPC, they'll have to port over the Windows stuff to a new platform.
Going with ARM would undermine backward compatibility with current Xbox.

cralias said,
If they keep with PowerPC, they'll have to port over the Windows stuff to a new platform.
Going with ARM would undermine backward compatibility with current Xbox.

What makes you think that the XBox is supposed to run Windows software?

MFH said,

What makes you think that the XBox is supposed to run Windows software?

Not Windows software per se. But it looks like Microsoft are trying to unify the look and feel across the devices. Why reinvent the wheel when they can leverage the experience gained from Windows 8?

cralias said,

Not Windows software per se. But it looks like Microsoft are trying to unify the look and feel across the devices. Why reinvent the wheel when they can leverage the experience gained from Windows 8?

Parts of Windows' code base currently run on XBox classic and Xbox 360.
This is possible due to the flexible NT Kernel, that isn't DIRECTLY connected to the hardware (HAL).

It doesn't matter a lot what CPU architecture they use, hell they could run it on anything, even a powerful toaster so to speak.

They would gain a lot by sticking to PPC, as they would make the backwards compatibility a lot easier.
Then again console makers nowadays hardly care about backwards compatibility anymore.

See how PS3 started? Full PS2 and PS1 support, then they removed it.
Same with the Wii, the "new" Wii (not Wii U) doesn't support the peripherals and games of the GC anymore.
Xbox Classic support on the 360 is - nicely put - a rough workaround to not implement a dedicated chip.

Now all of these decisions make good bookkeeper sense, however, I as a costumer always welcome the peace of mind of being fully b/w compatible with the latest iteration.

I sure hope they don't invest in ARM.
It would also mean heavy changes to the platform over the years of the Xbox 3, as the ARM platform will see a boosting development during that time, so the form factor might shrink quite fast, the power consumption might even drop faster, etc...
The problem? None really, but I'd get pretty envious at the late adopters when I adopt early!

GS:mac

cralias said,
If they keep with PowerPC, they'll have to port over the Windows stuff to a new platform.
Going with ARM would undermine backward compatibility with current Xbox.

I dont think they will be caring about backwards compatability so much by then. Also, if games are to go mostly digital, they will just release all the older titles on the Xbox marketplace and make people pay to download them again (similar to how Sony is doing now with PS1+PS2 titles) I think they would sacrifice backwards compatability to have the most powerful system out.

Glassed Silver said,

Parts of Windows' code base currently run on XBox classic and Xbox 360.
This is possible due to the flexible NT Kernel, that isn't DIRECTLY connected to the hardware (HAL).

True, and even the dreamcast run Windows Microsoft have had windows running on multiple platforms for years now, powerpc, titanium, arm (remember that's microsoft's tablet market with Windows 8). I'm sure Microsoft will have had builds for multiple platforms going throughout its development, it'd be crazy not to.

sagum said,

True, and even the dreamcast run Windows Microsoft have had windows running on multiple platforms for years now, powerpc, titanium, arm (remember that's microsoft's tablet market with Windows 8). I'm sure Microsoft will have had builds for multiple platforms going throughout its development, it'd be crazy not to.

The Dreamcast did not run Windows. It ran Windows CE.

TomJones said,

The Dreamcast did not run Windows. It ran Windows CE.


Exactly, however the point still stands.

The NT Kernel is capable of running on pretty much almost anything there is.
Provided the processor is strong enough to lift the kernel, it will if Microsoft adapts the HAL accordingly.
Not much of a too difficult job for them

GS:mac

Certainly seems doubtful. If its true that Rare ad other companies are working on games for next gen, you would have thought MS would be beyond the "designing the CPU" stage.

the better twin said,
Certainly seems doubtful. If its true that Rare ad other companies are working on games for next gen, you would have thought MS would be beyond the "designing the CPU" stage.

Who says they just started designing the CPU? Microsoft took out an ARM license in July 2010. After 16 months, they could be getting silicon back from the foundries by now.

Note also that the dev machines do not have to be running final hardware. They just need to be "close enough" for the game developers to work with. So, for example, it'd be perfectly fine to slap an existing ARM SoC in the dev machines and overclock the heck out of it to approximate the desired performance characteristics. You could never get away with that on the final console, but you can on the dev machines.

Edited by TomJones, Nov 8 2011, 3:34pm :

I can see them using ARM to make the console smaller and cheaper but I don't see the performance their with ARM. It's going to take at least 3 years at speeds with Intel or AMD chip sets.

It'd certainly be interesting, but I just think MS Nerd are 'feeding' us rumours when things get quiet, regardless of factual basis.

Daedroth said,
It'd certainly be interesting, but I just think MS Nerd are 'feeding' us rumours when things get quiet, regardless of factual basis.

Smells like big fat BS to me.
Why would MS sacrifice backwards compatibility when they have a chip architecture of their own in the 360 already and the Live ecosystem is working perfectly?
Plus the Windows 9 core adds to the blindness of the article even more when 8 isn't even finished and in use.

MS should build on the current CPU and add to it more cores, more eDRAM, a die shrink and other usefull things to give it a massive clockspeed boost. These can all be achieved easily.

I would hate the console that doesn't play my old games.
Don't make your next Xbox the next 'PS3' failure MS!

Thief000 said,
when they have a chip architecture of their own in the 360 already

Do they? Last time I checked the Xenon was a PPC…

Thief000 said,

I would hate the console that doesn't play my old games.
Don't make your next Xbox the next 'PS3' failure MS!

Changing the architecture doesn't kill backwards compatibility. Xbox originals on the 360 for example.

Question of what MS want to support. If they want 360 games to run on it, they will.

Thief000 said,

Smells like big fat BS to me.
Why would MS sacrifice backwards compatibility when they have a chip architecture of their own in the 360 already and the Live ecosystem is working perfectly?
Plus the Windows 9 core adds to the blindness of the article even more when 8 isn't even finished and in use.

MS should build on the current CPU and add to it more cores, more eDRAM, a die shrink and other usefull things to give it a massive clockspeed boost. These can all be achieved easily.

I would hate the console that doesn't play my old games.
Don't make your next Xbox the next 'PS3' failure MS!

Not really. There are a few points that could strenghten the blogs rumors:

1 - The next Xbox won't be released prior to 2013;
2 - Windows 9 is being designed to unify all MS platforms: Mobile, Desktop and Xbox;
3 - Windows 9 modular design allows it to be have its modules developed independently, allowing for the core and the components necessary to run the xbox do be delivered before the rest of the OS. This would allow it to be ready for the xbox while it is continually developed to the desktop;
4 - Backwards compatibility can be delivered through software emulation;

As for improving the clockspeed, that brings a lot of issues with stability and thermals, which in a videogame can doom a plataform.

Also, recall that Microsoft took out an ARM hardware license last year. At the time, people were speculating that Microsoft would make its own phones, or its own tablets. Well, we know now that Microsoft is sticking with the OEM model for phones and tablets. So where else would Microsoft put ARM chips? Keyboards and mice?

There were some hard negotiations over the Intel chips for the original Xbox. Intel took the position that they could always sell those chips for use in PCs, so why give Microsoft a large discount? They ended up making the chips on a production line that they'd been planning to shut down.

IBM was more willing to bargain, since PowerPC wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire. But in the end, they're still making a sizeable profit off the Microsoft order.

With a custom ARM design, Microsoft can pocket the money that would otherwise have gone to the chip designer. They can also be more aggressive in bidding the foundries against each other.

A custom ARM design could reduce the components cost of the NextBox by as much as $20. That is an *enormous* amount of money in the hardware world. It also puts Nintendo at a cost disadvantage, since they're sticking with IBM for the Wii U.