The latest information to seep through Microsoft's NDAs regards the marketing process which the company will employ to launch the XBox follow-up console. The whole process involves a timeline spanning from a period of one year, from fall 2005 to fall 2006, and three different consoles including a fully functional PC version.
The full release schedule suggests that XBox Next and XBox Next HD will be released on or around fall 2005 while XBox Next PC will appear in fall 2006.
Microsoft reacted to user backlash at the decision to not include a Hard Drive by providing two versions of XBox Next, one without a hard drive, keeping costs nice and low and one with A Hard Drive, to increase functionality for the more demanding XBox user.
XBox Next PC will be ready one year later and will also additionally offer a CD Burner, Wireless keyboard, mouse and controller and will connect to a high-definition TV or PC monitor. The PC version of the console will offer Media Center functionality so users will be able to view movies, music and photos, the device will also play most available PC games. Microsoft describes XBox Next PC as an XBox console with the added features of an entry level PC, without the possibility to upgrade the installed RAM or CPU.
The plan seems to be a very well thought out attempt to gain the lead from Sony as Microsoft will have a one year advantage over the PS3 and will also be able to use the XBox Next PC launch to interfere with Sony's PS3 launch should that take place during fall 2006. There are some doubts being raised however, claiming that Microsoft may be spreading XBox Next too thin by releasing 3 different versions. The PC version of the console especially has created some controversy as it seems to suggest that MS wants to have its cake and eat it. Is the idea of a fully functional PC/console hybrid for which you will have to buy games and also pay to play them online such a novel idea? Phantom anyone?