Rumors about a possible next-gen Xbox have been swirling for quite awhile now, dropping minor details like Blu-Ray support and major details like software that prevents used games from playing. But those were tiny pebbles compared to the avalanche of possible features that were recently revealed when a 56-page document purportedly leaked from Microsoft showed up online.
The hefty document, titled "XBox 720-9-24 Checkpoint Draft 1," showed up on Scribd originally and outlines exactly what features Microsoft thinks should be included in a "next-gen Xbox." Among a host of software and hardware upgrades for the "Xbox 720," the document points to a possible release date in late 2013, a price tag of US$299, and even augmented reality glasses with 4G connectivity.
Earlier rumors indicating Microsoft's goal is to make the Xbox 720 offer six times the performance of its predecessor seem to match up with the features listed in the leaked document. The new console should support true 1080p video, full native 3D, and improved video acceleration. A new "always on" power system may be included, that would cycle between five different power states - full power, media playback, idle, streaming, and standby - depending on what function is being used. The varied power states and improved processing power would allow for multiple apps to run at the same time - one example given is to have a live sports ticker at the bottom of the screen or picture-in-picture of a TV channel while a game is running.
The suggested tagline for the Xbox 720 is "All Your Entertainment. One Box," and the document focuses on improved media features. One diagram specifically names Apple TV, Google TV, and even OnLive as main competitors, along with Nintendo and Sony. A series of software upgrades would allow media to be streamed to any smart device, so a user could start playing a game or movie on a TV, move it to a tablet or phone, and then continue playing. A mentioned DVR feature would also allow live TV to be recorded and streamed in the same manner. If the console also uses a Windows 8 platform, as the document states, this could also streamline the development of games across Xbox, PC, and Windows phones.
One point the document makes very clear is that the Xbox 720 would need to be released in 2013 at a starting price of US$299 in order to compete with other video game platforms. From there, the console would be expected to have a 10 year lifecycle, with various SKUs being released over that time.
Aside from the possible new console, features of the next version of the Kinect are also detailed. "Kinect v2," would improve the voice recognition and HD camera on the device. An improved tracking system and dedicated processing just for the Kinect would actually allow for four players to use the Kinect simultaneously. There's also a possibility that we may see some force feedback-enabled peripherals like a baseball bat or steering wheel.
The most surprising parts of the document though are where it mentions "Project Fortoleza," also known as "Kinect Glasses." These aren't described as much as the Kinect v2, but, if genuine, are augmented reality glasses similar to the Google glasses revealed a few months ago. Slated for 2014, the glasses would be able to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or 4G through a smart phone to play games and use online apps. The glasses would be able to connect to a dedicated app store, though the document doesn't go into any details about what types of apps might be offered.
It's worth noting that the document appears to be from a presentation in August 2010 and almost every page is stamped with the words, "For Discussion Only." So even if it is legitimate, nothing here is set in stone. Still, it is interesting to see what features could be on the table, especially since Microsoft has already confirmed products with features similar to those outlined in the document. Xbox SmartGlass and My Xbox Live for Android sound like steps towards providing Xbox content on multiple screens, for instance. The document even specifically mentions using a separate tablet to devise plays in a football game, learn more about the actors in a movie, and switching back and forth between video being played on a smart device and a TV, all of which were demonstrated at E3 2012.
Unfortunately the document has since been removed from Scribd at the request of Covington and Burling LLP, a law firm that lists Microsoft among its clients (thus fueling the rumors even further). Fortunately, the internet being a place where nothing ever truly disappears, there are plenty of other sites and forums where the full document can be found. It's certainly worth looking over, if only to get an idea of what could be possible in the next generation of consoles.