The Price Of Compatibility

The next Xbox will play current Xbox games. But Microsoft might have to jump through some fiery hoops just to make sure.

Microsoft is keeping many (most?) details about its next-generation Xbox console under wraps, but at least one of the choices that Redmond has made public is stirring a spirited debate. Will Xbox Next, as it's now being called, play games designed for the original Xbox? Your answer depends on who you ask. Microsoft has kept mum about the next Xbox, except in two major areas. The company has announced that ATI Technologies will provide graphics technology for Xbox Next, while IBM will provide PowerPC microprocessors and Silicon Integrated Systems will supply a chipset. In choosing these companies, Microsoft appears to have broken its ties to previous vendors Nvidia (graphics) and Intel (microprocessor), which weren't as eager as their rivals to retain Xbox business by being the lowest bidder.

Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, says his guess is that the next Xbox won't be compatible with the old one. "It's virtually impossible on many levels," he adds. "On an intellectual-property level. On practical levels, too." When asked to explain (might this be sour grapes talking?), Huang says for cost reasons, Microsoft isn't likely to be willing to put additional chips in the box to ensure hardware compatibility. Moreover, he suggests that current Xbox games make use of Nvidia's proprietary graphics shaders and that Microsoft might have to license them to use them again.

News source: 1up

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