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Microsoft Patent Suggests Xbox 720 Could Feature Upgradable Components

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Posted on July 11, 2012 AT 10:38am

A recently discovered patent filing suggests that Microsoft’s next console will have the ability to be scaled up, or down, over time, leading to speculation that the hardware will be upgradable similar to a PC.

Application 20120159090 was submitted in December 2010 to the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office and was published last month. It was recently discovered by “Sonic” from the Beyond3D Forum, and describes a patent for “versions of a multimedia computer system architecture… which satisfy quality of service (QoS) guarantees for multimedia applications such as game applications while allowing platform resources, hardware resources in particular, to scale up or down over time.”

The most interesting thing about this patent is the similarities it shares with the “Yukon” system covered in the leaked Xbox 720 document from May. This document has since been confirmed as genuine, meaning the patent could point out the direction that Microsoft is heading with its next console, despite it stating that the design document was simply for “discussion purposes.”

Diagrams attached to the patent show a base architecture for the console similar to how PCs are designed, featuring components such as motherboards, PSUs, RAM modules, and expansion cards. These modules can be upgraded over time, and multiple base models are mentioned, suggesting different SKUs at launch, perhaps with different levels of customization available. The document shares similarities with the Xbox 720 leak as it mentions the system containing multiple CPUs and GPUs, with one set being reserved for the platform, and the second for multimedia, such as video decoding, applications, and music.

The leaked Xbox 720 document mentioned “transmedia gaming,” which would allow you to run games alongside other applications, such as TV streams and strategy guides. At the moment this is impossible as the game is being run by all the console’s available hardware. This multi-CPU and GPU combo would allow the components to run independently with one controlling games while the other handled applications, allowing this vision to become a reality.

However, there are a few differences between the patent and the leaked design document. In the document Kinect was represented as dual cameras, however in the patent it is back down to one, and will once again connect via a USB.

This elongated lifecycle has caused a lot of issues for Microsoft and developers, could it be planning to move away from this traditional model to one more closely attuned to PCs? Single components would be much easier to manufacture and sell to players than an entire new system due to their lower cost, and it would allow Microsoft to upgrade the system regularly, preventing PC abilities from shooting ahead of it like it has this generation.

I can definitely see this as a possible future for consoles, in fact I would welcome it. The ability to upgrade my console every six months to a year would be brilliant, and would keep costs down for Microsoft. It would also open a whole new revenue stream as players will constantly be purchasing upgrades, as opposed to just putting up one lump sum every so many years. If the idea is feasible, then this would definitely be a good route to go down.

What do you think of the idea of an upgradable console? Would you prefer it over the traditional cycle?

Matthew Bennett, Associate Editor
Matthew Bennett has only been covering the gaming world for a short while, but he’s eager to make his mark. An ability to go many hours without sleep and a quick wit make him ideal for his role as associate editor at EGMNOW.com. He often thinks back to the days when the very idea of this career seemed like nothing but an impossible dream. Follow him on Twitter @mattyjb89. Meet the rest of the crew.

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