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One Xbox

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A new Xbox for a new generation, a powerful computer media center enters living rooms everywhere in a domesticated flavor and household name that everyone loves; Xbox One. The liquid black understated design of the Xbox one is classy and cool looking.

With tremendous power under the hood, the Xbox One hardnesses more than 5 billion transistors for fluid performance and 4k resolutions that will please gamers and regular people alike for years to come. Taking a trip down memory lane and all the way up to present, I examine the Xbox One and previous Xbox's in the context of broadband internet and TV resolutions that make or break the experience.

The upgrade generation is in full effect now / Consoles, Phablets, Tablets, Touchable Computers, Wearable Computers, FitBit, Google Glass, Android, Galaxy Gear Wrist Computers / This bit is getting real up in this Whole Foods parking lot, you like the deal with those little shopping carts they got ^^ ref.

Slow Sales Raising Questions 

With the holiday Christmas 2013 behind us, the focus for sales of Microsofts $499 Xbox One bundle will need something special if they plan to move units on a grand scale. Some have hinted at the idea that an Xbox One without the new Kinect could be offered for $399, and that kind of deal seems more appealing to me.

Buyer Incentives 

Microsoft could also throw in 6mo or 12mo of free Xbox Life Gold access with the bundle to help move those units off the shelves and into the homes of consumers. The race between the 8th generation consoles, Playstation 4 and Xbox One will intensify as each company seeks to collect revenue and sales from the general public all around the world.

Slim Margins

Hardware production cost analysis shows that only a tiny (~$25) profit margin can be generated on the sale of each Xbox One and Play Station 4. On the other hand we know that over time the hardware in these latest consoles will become less expensive, and through redesigns both companies will make their consoles more profitable to sell.

Platform Lifecycle 

The product lifecycle of these 8th generation consoles is about 5 years or slightly longer. This makes the console development cycle similar to automobile development cycles. Automakers rarely make a profit on a given vehicle platform in the first year after launch, as it takes many years of sales to pay for the development overhead costs and production. Automakers usually start to pull a profit during the second or third year after a model revision launches. It looks like 8th generation console companies are looking at a similar ROI schedule.

1st Atari * 2nd Nintendo * 3rd Play Station

Console gaming for me goes back to an original Atari system that my dad had purchased long before I was even a thought in this world. The original nintendo was the console of my post 1983 generation. As a teenager it was the Sony Playstation that took ahold of my game playing interests, mostly in the auto-sports simulation realm via Gran Turismo.

First Xbox

I started out with the original Xbox back in 2001, a nice Christmas present (thanks Mom and Dad); and played with it on and off for years, sometimes for many hours on end, many times not at all for weeks or months on end if the weather outside was sunny and nice. The Halo franchise was the soup de jour for this machine, both in campaign mode and for death matches online.

Halo LAN Parties 

At WSU in 2002-2004 the xbox over high speed geek spun LAN networks connected my xbox to other xbox's so that it enabled LAN party Halo death match tournaments with my friends, (Lyle, Fish, Brian) and some of the other neighbors willing to wire in (with cat cabling down the hall literally to our 8 port bridge with long networking cables, since the in room network had too much latency (lag) to make playing fluid. Some of the beer enhanced sessions lasted all weekend. When I left WSU I even loaned my xbox to a friend and recovered it a year later. Every winter I would play the xbox version of counter strike.

By 2008 the o.g. Xbox gave up the ghost. It ended up being sold for $5 at a garage sale with some games. The opportunistic penny pincher that bought it was bend on getting it up and running, I was happy to oblige with a steep discount on the garage sale price :)

Xbox 360

In late November of 2008 I was bumping around BestBuy when I saw a steeply discounted Xbox bundle, and left BestBuy lighter in the wallet with a new White Xbox 360. Halo 3 was the big hit for this one, and with many online matches under my wing, I got all the value I could ever want to get out of it. The old counter-strike game also works, so every now and then I load it up and become a counter-terrorist in the digital world.

Flat Black Paint

When I started dating Meg, she was concerned about my "killing" games on the Xbox, so I ended up picking up a copy of Forza 3 at Target for $30 to resume my "driving" career, one that started with Gran Turismo on the original play station back in the late 1990's. With a return to simulator driving I also decided to paint the white Xbox flat black, a process that required disassembling the Xbox (during the summer when it was not in used) and painting the case components with some of Krylon's finest flat black plastic appropriate spray paint.

AV Upgrade 2009

With some black friday discounts I upgrade my TV from a 32inch 480p tube to a 42inch 720P Sharp LCD in 2009, taking the Xbox 360 experience to a whole new level. A new AV receiver (Pioneer) and some Polk Audio Speakers (FL,FR,C,RL,RR) rounded out the Black Friday AV upgrades. For $1k big I took my home AV system from bland to grand on the sale price specials typical of black friday.

Underwhelmed by  the original Kinect

When I learned about the Kinect sensor in 2010 I got one, and a copy of Your Shape Fitness Evolved to use with the new input device. After playing Your Shape for a dozen hours to so, I stopped using it.  It works ok, but required me to reconfigure the entertainment room at my old place, making it too cumbersome for my 30min here and there gaming style. My Kinect has not seen much use, but still have it setup, but leave it unplugged. My new living room is far to small to actually use the Kinect Sensor effectively anyway.

Forza 3 and Portal 2 

By late 2013 I was well into the Fifth Season of driving in Forza 3 and just finished beating Portal 2 in single player mode. My boss Jim has loaned me his copy of Portal 2 and perhaps Meg might play it cooperative with me sometime in 2014. I have been eyeing a copy of Forza 4, but might just wait on that given that summer is right around the corner. I unplug my Xbox when the weather starts getting nicer, to avoid wasting sunny weather. I view video games as appropriate as an indoor activity when the outside weather is unpleasantly cold and wet. To use the game console during good weather would constitute a violation of sun enjoyment time in my life plan. I love nice weather and being outside photographing things with my not water proof cameras when the weather is nice. I like to ride my bicycle when the weather is nicer too. I will make rainy weather exceptions in the spring and fall at times, where it makes sense to hook up the Xbox for some interactive entertainment.

Board Revisions Considered

Fast forward to 2014 and my focus is still on enjoying my Xbox 360. It does not have a lot of hours on it, and seems to be in perfect working order. I admittedly and quite enthused by the Xbox One, and  Forza 5. I am highly skeptical about buying an early board revision of the Xbox One. When computer consoles like the Xbox 360 launch, they undergo many revisions over the years to address engineering challenges that were not completely addressed in the launch versions. Smartphones are the same way, where the launch versions have less polished hardware that is prone to glitch formation and random failure modes that end up being addressed in subsequent board revisions. Starting with the second generation iPad I started buying consumer electronics off cycle, to get more polished revisions of products well after they have launched.

Powerful Xbox One 

5 billion transistors, 8 cores, 8GB of ram, 4K resolution output : the Xbox One will be prime for purchasing in about 2 years when 4K television sets are more accessible and commonplace. I am skipping 1080p on my home AV setup and going from the 42in 720P display from 2009 to a 4K display of 46 or 47in sometime around 2016, or whenever I will be able to get a last generation 4K display at a steeply discounted price, and it will likely be samsung who gets my business there. I plan to get an Xbox One around the same timeframe as the new TV.

Games will have to Catch-up 

While Forza 5 looks exciting, game developers will need a few years to polish content for full hardware optimization on the new Xbox One, especially if they are going to take advantage of 4k resolutions.

Greedy Telecom Companies Suck 

It will be Forza 6 and Portal 3 that will bring me to the Xbox One. No amount of TV integration seems appealing to me. I hate Comcast with a burning passion and Time Warner can kiss my veto as well : they can take their cable TV options and stuff them where the printed news belongs, in the past and no where near me. I am not interested in check books, vintage cars that stink, con artist telecom companies like AT&T or ripoff telecom companies like comcast and their bullshit cable packages (If you have to watch commercials the service should be free, the premium service should be without commercial interruptions (right now comcast is getting cash flow coming and going from the content creators and the cable subscribers) and I am not stupid enough to pay comcast to watch commercials. I might even bite my nails and do the comcast triple play if they gave me TV content without commercial interruptions and blast speed broadband for $99/ month.

Living with Slow High Speed Internet

My slow broadband (thank you for the 1/2price discount) century link, actually encourages me to hold off on upgrading my TV to 1080p. Netflix can barely stream anything in 720P at this point, so I see no value in getting a 1080p TV display. My ancient Apple TV is stuck in 720P and the Xbox 360 works fine on the 720P display as well. The internet service we pay $33 a month for is worth exactly that amount, not their normal price ($20 more). Century Links's DSL service is decent, but overpriced at their normal rate because of its slow speeds. My entire AV experience is dependent on faster internet, so updating to 4K will have to wait at least 3 more years. Over time the base speeds offered by Century Link will improve, and perhaps Comcast will have an attractive broadband option down the road. My crystal ball is missing so I can't see what will happen in the future, but I suspect things will get brighter with respect to broadband speeds and competition driving down the price of technologies like 4k monitors and associated ultra-HD content streaming.

1080P vs 4K 

The only 1080P monitor I own is on the photo-editing desktop. Here the added high density resolution makes photo editing more efficient and pleasurable. While playing the Xbox One on a 1080P display will be good, it will really shine with ultra-HD 4K :) The Xbox One even ships with a 4K capable HDMI cable.

The $100 million Dollar Controller of the Xbox One 

Microsoft spent $100million redesigning the Xbox controller, a mind boggling 40 innovations were integrated into something that looks only slightly different than the controller that ships with the Xbox 360. Do not be mistaken by its subtle appearance, the new controller is a technological beast in familiar clothing. Everything critical to gaming was enhanced on the new controller which offers more of everything :)

Technological Evolution is Amazingly Fast

The Xbox One is approximately 10x more powerful in terms of hardware specifications than the Xbox 360, although with benchmarking it seems that 300% improved is more accurate. This great improvement in processing power will be needed to push games with decent frame rates onto 4k displays. I suspect the Xbox One will undergo some hardware revisions over the next few years as well, to make 4k gaming more fluid (with newer 22nm and 18nm lithography) entering the marketplace today. The Xbox 360 has gone through 5 major hardware revisions, and production of the current E variant of the 360 will continue along side the Xbox One.

No Old Games on Xbox One

If the Xbox One was able to play my old games I might be willing to get one earlier, but I see no value in adding a system that needs all new games to work. I am also not sold on the new Kinect sensor. While the Kinect system that ships with the Xbox One is amazing, it is in my eyes a hacker privacy nightmare. I have no idea if the new sensor would even work in my tiny living room AV space anyway. I am also not sold on how playing Forza with Kinect makes any sense at all. Likewise Portal 2 has no practical way to make use of a Kinect interface.

300,000 Xbox Live Servers Now Online 

Microsoft has spent a grip upgrading the Xbox Live server network, installing and using more than 300,000 servers to give that cloud assisted experience on the Xbox one that they love to talk about. All the money people have spent on the Xbox live subscriptions over the years netted some serious network upgrades to the Live service that will deliver more content, at high fidelity, with less lag, more players and more of everything faster. The new Xbox Live system updates alone are a modern marvel, with more server computing power in Xbox Live than existed on the entire world wide web in 1999.

Photorealistic gaming on Xbox One ?  

I am not sure that Xbox One has the visual hardware processing prowess to render photorealistic CGI at 4K, even with a lot of server side cloud computing assistance on the Xbox Live network. Adding that much "detail" to games is going to be a massive undertaking for game developers as well. I think Portal 3 will be a home run golden joystick success if Valve makes use of some very creative rendering techniques to bring 4K environments with amazing detail and lighting to the game.

While the Xbox One's hardware is not within the Teraflop range of real time 4K CGI with photorealism, it is possible for game developers to use pre-rendering techniques and hybrid pre-rendered/ dynamic lighting solutions to bring photorealism into a game like Portal 3. I am of course assuming that Valve will develop a new Portal game for Xbox One, in Valve time sometime down the road a year or more from now, probably 2 years away and possibly 3. While Forza 5 looks good, I believe it will give way to a Forza 6 that really takes advantage of the Xbox One's new hardware abilities.

The Cloud Shines on 20+ Mbps broadband 

It will be interesting to see if the new Xbox Life network can bring any visual candy enhancement to the gaming experience on the Xbox One. If cloud computing is really going to shine, we are going to need to have cheaper access to really high speed broadband services in our homes. $50/month for symmetrical 20 mbps that never slows down at a minimum.

If Netflix is going to stream 4K movie content to the Xbox one, you better have a comcast blast speed or better connection to the internet. I imagine cloud computing will only help the Xbox one where a 100gbps network is utilized. If the telecom network and cloud computing is going to compete again the data bus system in the Xbox One for data transmissions speeds, its going to need to be gigabit fast. 4k content of any type will only be fluidly enjoyed where people enjoy a 20-30 mbps broadband speed. That kind of bandwidth performance is only available through premium priced broadband plans at this point in early 2014.

Xfinity delivers a consistent 20mbps to my parents home for a bundle package price of about $150/ mo. That price is too steep for me, and I have no use for a home phone plan or cable tv service. I just need internet and a faster connection would be nice, and will be needed for 4k content enjoyment.

The internet where I work delivers 2mbps, about 10x slower than what is needed to stream 4k video in a time efficient manner. Over slower internet connections, streaming video becomes a "buffer" challenge, where the service has to be fast enough to fill up a large buffer so that you can watch the content after allowing it to load for a little while. Anyone who has played with YouTube set to 1080P and watched the grey loading bar below the video will have a basic grasp over what buffering looks like. In order to avoid waiting around to watch an online video, you need faster internet so that the browser can download the content quick enough to play it in real time or better: a buffer is always used because broadband transmission rates are constantly variable in most instances.

Forza 4 Next

While I would love to get a new Xbox One with a copy of Forza 5, that is going to have to wait for my TV upgrade in the future. I am not going to connect an Xbox One to my vintage 720P LCD, as doing so would be a squandering waste of the Xbox Ones 1080P to 4K rendering power.

I view modern video games as digital interactive art and music experiences and am fully steeped in the Forza 3 flavor on Xbox 360. One of the features I am most looking forward too is the Forza 4 Autovista experience, a car geeks device smut that allows you to view some of the game vehicles with great detail. I hope that the menu sound track on Forza 4 is as polished and well done as the Lance Hayes work audible in the menus of Forza 3. I have a "thing" for that sort of electronic music without vocals. So enthused by the menu music of Forza 3, I purchased the associated Lance Hayes album on iTunes and it was my last music purchase before I took the dip to streaming only with Pandora (A smartphone) and a broadband connected AV setup that enables ad free enjoyment of the music genome projects finest playlist creations :)

It looks like the local Best Buy is stocking said Forza 4, and I will be dropping some of my wad over there shortly to pick up a copy before their inventory is depleted.

While Forza 5 appears to be a visual stunner, it is also short on vehicles (200), and has limited track diversity when compared to Forza 4. Turn 10 took the pick-pocket approach to make the other vehicles pay per download DLC content. In terns of revenue generation this was probably a great idea, but to frugal consumers like me it feels like they are making you bend over farther to get the full experience; for many people who lack an aversion to being hosed, such bending over might feel fine, just make sure to grab the wallet KY so those slippery developers at Turn 10 can take your money with more friction.

Forza 6 with a 4k viewing experience is probably the thing I am actually looking for as an upgrade to my Xbox 360 Forza experience at 720p. In line with skipping 1080p TV resolutions, it is the 4K I am interested in for next generation digital entertainment. For now I will stay steeped in the Forza 3 experience and move on to Forza 4 in the near future.

My First Post for 2014 

Things are looking brighter ahead :)

The future has many good things to come with technology bringing ongoing innovations and new solutions down the commercialization pipelines to consumer realities.

We will see better electric cars, better solar panels, better batteries, faster wireless networks, faster broadband, better smartphones, better TV and movie resolutions and displays, better cameras, better everything. From education to the electrical infrastructure to health care and energy debt, solutions to all of our problems will come from technology. Companies like AMD, Google, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Tesla, Ambri, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, Honda, Toyota, GM, Ford, Micron, Philips, GE, Bechtel, Aeroviroment, Sharp, Canon, Nikon, Hitachi, Honeywell, Boeing, HP, IBM, Western Digital, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, LG... the innovations are happening everywhere in all important areas. The solution to cancer and carbon energy problems right around the corner. Personal assistant robots like the Asimo of Today with the technologies of tomorrow are right around the corner. Self-driving cars are right behind more driver assistance technologies that will make cars safer and more efficient.

With new technology we have new abilities, and with new abilities we can enjoy things in a new way. The future is brighter because change is always happening and people are always trying to improve. We can do things better, faster and more efficiently, for more fun, to go father with less while enjoying more.

We can get more of everything good (technology) with less of everything bad (pollution) with mental revolutions in thought (awareness), and technological revolutions in engineering and applied sciences for new materials, driven by consumer revolutions with every dollar vote that we cast for purchases that reshape the future, the landscape of computing, the fabric of the information age weaving deeper into the lives of everyday people living at the waning end of the industrial age. We are building tomorrow today, and will go places that seem like science fiction today.

To infinity and beyond, upgrading and moving forward, innovating and changing the future, a new generation is always forming, and reforming, and remaking, and making what is and what will be.

Think about it!

My blog has been light lately because I am working on my first book :) A book about the future of energy and transportation :)


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