While it's clear Microsoft isn't planning to introduce its next-generation Xbox console this year, all signs indicate that a 2013 launch is on the cards. A newly leaked 56-page document sheds some light on the company's plans, for what it calls the "Xbox 720." The presentation appears to be from August 2010, and references future improvements like SmartGlass, a Metro dashboard, and Xbox TV apps. Alongside its incremental Xbox 360 updates, Microsoft has a clear vision for its next-generation Xbox 720 console — we've dug into its plans to bring you the best bits.
Microsoft outlines a competitive differentiation for its next-generation Xbox, including support for Blu-ray, native 3D output and glasses, concurrent apps, and additional sensor and peripheral support. Alongside a promised 6x performance increase, there's also mention of true 1080p output with full 3D support and an "always on" state for the console. A slide on core hardware indicates that the next Xbox will be designed to be scalable in the number of CPU cores and their frequencies. Microsoft appears to have been debating whether to use six or eight ARM or x86 cores clocked at 2GHz each with 4GB of DDR4 memory alongside three PPC cores clocked at 3.2GHz each for backwards compatibility with existing Xbox 360 titles.
Microsoft positions its Xbox 720 as the only box needed for living room entertainment in the document, providing background recording functionality for TV content and a unified Windows 8 foundation to make it easier for application developers to build apps that target Xbox, PC, and Windows Phone. Illustrations of the Xbox 720 throughout the presentation make it comparable in looks to an old set-top box, but appear to be just a concept design used in 2010. Microsoft rounds off the document with a promised price point of $299 with its Kinect 2 hardware and a prediction of a 10-year lifecycle with more than 100 million units sold.
The next iteration of Microsoft's Kinect accessory appears to be an incremental improvement over the current hardware. Microsoft references higher accuracy, stereo imaging, improved voice recognition, support for four-player tracking, an improved RGB camera, and dedicated hardware processing. One particular aspect of the leaked slides is a focus on four-player gaming and Kinect props. "In Kinect v2 we can continue to go beyond controllers and offer peripherals and accessories that heighten game immersion," reads a note section of one of the slides. The Kinect accessories idea appears to be one that is not designed to replace controllers, but will allow devices to interact with the sensor. Microsoft's plans for four-player Kinect gaming reference carnival, darts, and basketball games as a broad way to use the new tracking.
Kinect Glasses (project Fortaleza)
Microsoft lays out a roadmap for its "Fortaleza" Kinect Glasses — which appears to be a research project the company is working on. There's little mention of the hardware involved, but the glasses appear to be Wi-Fi- or 4G-enabled and incorporate augmented reality in a way that's similar to Google's Project Glass augmented reality glasses. Described as a "breakthrough heads up and hands-free device," Kinect Glasses is marked as a 2014 product that won't launch alongside the Xbox 720 console. Microsoft doesn't provide any specifics about how the glasses will work on the Xbox, but they do appear to be designed to be mobile for use away from the console.
Update: It looks like the leaked document has now been removed. Clicking through to Scribd (where it had been hosted this morning) only shows a note that it was removed "at the request of Covington & Burling LLP," an international law firm that lists Microsoft as one of its clients.
Update 2: Microsoft has been sending takedown requests for sites hosting the leaked document, including Dropbox. The company issued a statement to Eurogamer, commenting "we understand there is great interest and anticipation for what comes next for Xbox and we are lucky to have customers who are so passionate about the platform."
Nukezilla reported on some of the information contained in the leaked document last month.