Those that met me more than once know what a geek I am, my eyes basically glow on a sight of a cool new gadget. My wife on the other hand, couldn’t care less, she is as far from a geek as it gets. An email? Something needs to be found on The Web? Why learn anything when you have a guy next to you doing it all for you when you need it, and being hapy about it too!

That’s probably the essence of the presence of an Xbox in our house. This little toy (ok it’s not quite little, in fact it’s huge when you compare it to any other console on the market) is basically a fully featured computer connected to a TV. But you won’t see us gaming on it, nor enjoying any Xbox live action. With a little help of google and some creative hacking you can turn your Xbox into a fully fledged media center for the family. Why should I juggle the DVD’s when I can have them conveniently stored on the Xbox (it’s got its tine 8GB hard disk replaced with a 120GB one) when you can conveniently lay on a couch with a remote in your hand and enjoy your whole DVD and music collection being just a remote control click away?

Check out the cool things they’ve done with the old Xbox.
And a review on Tom’s Hardware.
It’s got my music, it stores all my digital photos and I even ripped a few movies to it. And the most important thing that was actually the key for the purchase of it is – it’s completely maintainable by all of my girls! Heck even the youngest (2.5 year) play cartoons on it.

The key was to make the XBMC the dashboard (meaning it’s the app that’s shown when you start your Xbox).

And although the original Xbox was protected against using third party code by means of only running an MS signed code, this protection was quickly removed and there seems to be a galore of semi-legal apps being available for it.

Now it’s essential to mention that MS really seemed to have little incentive to let us do it. The Xbox division has been a total money sink for them since day 1. They literally lost billions on the deal. The model was to make money on licensing the platform to game developers and take a cut out of any game that’s being sold for it. Obviously it didn’t work. The division had only a single quarter profitable (when they shipped the highly succesful Halo2).

Now it turns out that they no longer intend to go with that model (at least for the moment) as reported in those articles:
XNA game development platform will be free for Windows, $99 for Xbox (Tom’s Hardware)
Microsoft Opens Up Xbox 360 Game Development to Everyone (Paul Thurot)
Play your own Xbox game (ZDNet)

Tom’s hardware says:

Microsoft developers report the first beta of XNA Game Studio Express will be made available on 30 August, with a final edition released – still for free download – before the holidays. The product requires Visual C# Express, but that’s also free.

Now how cool is THAT!?

Microsoft is no longer going to limit the development of the games to the few chosen but rather will open it to anyone. Is is bad for giants like EA or Vivendi? Not likely, the indies don’t really have the capital to give them any serious competition in the supper production games like halo2 or NBA stuff. It is however great for the wide range of developers that used to make PC games. The PC games marked has been on decline for quite a while. While console games sell in hundrets of copies, a PC game is lucky to sell a few thousand. If Microsoft will not charge them a hefty price for distribution, this may be a great move for XboX 360 since they can still make a lot by the volume of sales for the platform and it’s good for the platform since it will make lots of new titles made available for it.

Let’s see whom else does it benefit… how about the other most succesful to date gaming platform from Microsoft? Yes – Windows. I think one of the not so many true platform locks for Windows users are games. while people buy computers for their home to work and browse and send emails they definitely want to be able for their kids to be able to play on them, or actually, since the target audience for the majority of games seems to actually be people in their 30’s, they buy them to game themselves. Let’s see… how many big game titles got released for linux last year? Anyone? If any you would probably be able to count them on the fingers of one hand. That definitely locks quite a few people in the Windows platform. And if that’s going to be a platform majority owns at home, they will actually demand them at work, so the circle closes.

But whom is it targeted against? I would say the whole push has been engineered to hurt Playstation 3.

There is no way Sony can pull a stunt like this. They have absolutely nothing to gain from opening their APIS and even if they did… Xbox OS is basically a fork off of Windows 2000, while PS3 is a totally different infrastructure, if it was even possible, it surely would not be fun. Add to that the stupid things Sony does with their DRM and the patent they filed on tieing a game you bought to a specific console and you’ve got the picture. The Playstation series is dead. DEAD!

So, up till today it was hard (and not-quite-legal) to make any unauthorized software for the Xbox, and as far as I know impossible to make it on Xbox 360. This is going to change, and soon enough we will have things like XBMS available for the x360

I guess what I wanted to say in the end is – I cannot wait to replace the old and clunky Xbox with a new shiny 360 one… and there are rumours that for only an additional $200 I can get a HD-DVD for it soon enough!

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This entry (Permalink) was posted on Monday, August 14th, 2006 at 6:52 pm and is filed under .Net Framework, C#, Lifestyle, Software Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site.