Microsoft has always expressed an interest in providing a next-generation disc format for Xbox 360, but there was no way they could incorporate the technology into their hardware if they were going to launch last November. They went with a standard drive.
Tonight at CES, Microsoft corporate VP Peter Moore announced they’ll be producing an external disc drive capable of reading Toshiba’s HD-DVD discs. Moore’s speech notes the drive is for users to enjoy high-definition films, though, and makes absolutely no mention of videogames taking advantage of the device.
Many viewed Microsoft’s decision to skimp out on a next-generation disc drive as controversial in lieu of Sony’s inclusion of Blu-ray into PlayStation 3. Tonight’s announcement helps sidestep that problem, but unless Microsoft decides to splinter their userbase (after splitting them via the dual SKU, one with hard drive and one without), the HD-DVD drive will likely remain movies-only.
Much of the reason for developing the external HD-DVD drive seems to be fueled by Microsoft statistics researched by Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates. Their research shows 90% of Xbox 360 owners own or intend to purchase an HDTV in the six months, nine out of 10 of the people purchasing an HDTV cite Xbox 360 as the primary catalyst, and 10% of those with an HDTV also purchased an Xbox 360 simultaneously.
There’s little surprise the amount of users taking advantage of and picking up HDTV sets is accelerating due to more devices that take advantage of high-definition. “Xbox 360 is a high-definition growth engine for Microsoft and our entertainment, broadband provider, consumer electronic, and retail partners,” said Moore.