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It’s no secret that, while Nintendo’s Wii is destroying both the 360 and the PS3 in terms of sales, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is the leader in the number of exclusive hit games and is usually getting the popular vote when given a choice between the big three. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005 around the time of the Nintendo DS (which seems like forever ago) and has enjoyed many exclusive titles and numerous updates to it’s firmware, software and hardware. In 2010, with the prospect of Project Natal, it seems like the DVD wielding (and HD-DVD failing) console has at least two or three more strong years left in it.

So what about after that?

It’s no secret that the Xbox 360 chose the wrong video format when they sided with the HD-DVD. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD gave each other some good competition at the beginning of their lifespan, but Blu-ray quickly showed its dominance and the HD-DVD  is now enjoying it’s time next to the beta max and 8-track formats on the “thanks for trying” table. Meanwhile, the PS3 is currently enjoying some serious sales due to the included Blu-ray player inside of the device. It’s currently the #1 reason people buy the console (at around 60% of all total sales) and the most popular Blu-ray player used by consumers. Both Microsoft and Sony gambled on the new format and Sony certainly chose right. So where does that leave Microsoft?

The Blu-ray disks are increasing in size almost monthly. Last I checked, the bloody thing could hold almost 120 gigs, dual layered. Meanwhile, the DVD’s that the Xbox 360 uses hold about 9 gigabytes, but after Microsoft finishes chewing on them, they hold about 7.8 gigabytes. This is a problem, as I’m sure you can see. While it’s not been too big of a concern this generation, soon, as videos get more advanced and CGI takes more and more memory to store, 7.8 gigabytes is not going to cut it. And even though we’re not expecting a new console generation until into 2012 or 2013 (some even guess 2014), now is the time to figure out what to do with those tiny little DVD’s.

Sony’s got it made. With Blu-ray technology increasing all the time, there is no reason for them to switch formats any time soon; Blu-ray could, I suppose, last forever if they continue to find ways for it to hold more data. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a problem; their gamble failed. They certainly can’t work on a new console that uses DVD’s and it would be stupid to try the HD-DVD path again. So, what options does the Xbox 1080 have?

Well, I suppose the obvious thing for them to do would be to license a Blu-ray drive. This, though, would be completely embarrassing  for Microsoft as they have publicly bashed Blu-ray and the PS3 in favor of their over-priced HD-DVD drive add-on for the Xbox 360. This would also allow for Microsoft to be able to tap into the Blu-ray movie market, which is a money printing machine for Sony. But still, they would have to swallow a lot of pride to not only admit defeat but also to kiss the feet of their opponent.

Another possibility is the flash card, or even a solid state mini hard drive. Flash and solid state are both twenty times (usually more) faster than any disk in any format and, by 2014, the price of the technology to have a 50 gigabyte (or more) flash card or a solid state drive could be about equal to that of a Blu-Ray disk now. So not only would the games load incredibly fast (can you say literally no loading screens ala the Nintendo 64?) but they’d be smaller, which could quite possibly lead to a smaller game console, assuming the rest of the technology allows it.

Ironic isn’t it? If we go to flash cards, we’ve gone full circle: cartridges to CDs to DVDs to Blu-Ray and back to cartridges.

I think the last possibility is that Microsoft, being the computer geniuses they are, could come up with an entirely new format for their console. They could create a disk that holds the same amount (or more) than a Blu-Ray that’s exclusive to the Xbox console. It wouldn’t be a good idea for a new format to fight Blu-Ray for control over the movie market again because Blu-Ray is here to stay, but the console certainly could be backwards compatible with regular DVDs, assuming they’re still around by then.

Microsoft's solution to Blu-ray?

No matter what happens, it’s going to be a challenge for Microsoft. I suppose they could switch entirely over to digital distribution, but we all saw how well that worked for Sony and the PSP Go!. I think the most likely option for Microsoft is to just suck it up and put a Blu-ray drive into their console. It would make the most sense and probably bring in the most money for them.

Now, what about Nintendo…? They still haven’t quite figured out the DVD yet…

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People hate waiting for the newest stuff. We like to have the newest iPod, laptop, video game and car as soon as physically possible  So, because the American electronic consumers want more information about the newest gadgets all the time, most company’s try to do the opposite; keep as much information secret as possible to build up hype and, hopefully, sales.

2010 hasn’t been a kind year for video games and electronics though. We’ve had at least three rather large announcements announced months, even years ahead of time, along with some smaller leaks, and it’s only April. Let’s get a quick run down.

Gears of War 3:

Cliffy B, the lead designer for Gears of War, was scheduled to be on the Jimmy Fallon show on a Thursday. On Wednesday of the same week, he had to reschedule for Tuesday, the next week. Well, someone forgot to mention that little fact to the good people in the advertisement department for Xbox Live, because this little blurb appeared announcing on the game on Thursday. Cliffy B, on Tuesday, called Gears 3 “The Worst Kept Secret”. No kidding. I’m sure Epic was real happy about the slip up, and you know someone over on Xbox Live got fired.

Nintendo 3DS:

Though we had heard rumors of a new Nintendo DS that was being planned by Nintendo, the world was expecting news at E3; no earlier. One late night, on a random day in March (March 23rd, to be exact), Nintendo announced some small facts about a brand new Nintendo DS: the 3DS. It was to be a type of 3D that wouldn’t use glasses and was going to be nearly “the strength of a Gamecube”, but that was all the information Nintendo released. No pictures, no concept art, nothing. But it was actually Nintendo who announced what little information we got about the 3DS, so why the weird time?

Turns out that some journalists had aquired some facts about the new Nintendo handheld, some true, some false and Nintendo wanted to beat them to the punch by officially announcing it.

Apple iPhone 4th Generation:

Probably the biggest leak this year was from the big Apple themselves. Apple has a track record to be very very secretive about their newest devices or software. We’ve never had a leak of the newest version of the iPod or iPhone unless Apple specifically wanted it to be leaked.

Until a brand new version of the iPhone, cleverly disguised inside a casing that made it look like a 3GS, but running the new OS, version 4, showed up in a random bar.

An Apple employee was out for his birthday, probably had a little too much to drink and walked off… leaving a prototype of the newest Apple iPhone that hadn’t even been seen by people inside Apple yet, on a stool.

Oops.

As soon as Apple realized that it was lost, they bricked the console so it wouldn’t even turn on. Gizmodo.com bought the device for $5000, and had the first world release of the newest iPhone. Hours later, Apple wrote Gizmodo and asked for the iPhone back (which confirmed that it wasn’t a fake). Gizmodo gave it back without a fight.

Xbox 360 Slim?:

On March 17th, this picture of what was thought to be a Xbox 360’s motherboard appeared all over the internet. It has a Xbox branding and some of the same parts as the 360 does. But to anyone who has seen the current Xbox motherboard, you’ll notice a slight difference in this new find: it’s way smaller. It looks like the CPU and GPU have been combined and some of the ports have been shuffled around to make the motherboard shorter than the current version. We heard exactly nothing from Microsoft about this rumor, but it’s obvious they are trying everything to get 100% rid of the Red Rings of Death problem that has been plaguing their consoles for years. Seems like a redesign of the terrible X-Clamps would be a good start to rid the world of the problem forever.

All these slip ups so far, you have to wonder what else is going to hit the press months or even years early this year.  

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