Microsoft patent describes scalable Xbox 720

Scalable Xbox 720

When Microsoft announced specifications for the original Xbox way back at the end of last century, people couldn’t help but laugh. Online connectivity? Progressive scan? A hard disk drive? Media playback capabilities? Isn’t this video game console just a PC? It wasn’t quite that. As the Xbox found its audience and Microsoft developed its successor, the Xbox 360, the line transformed into objects similar to PCs but more like cable boxes. An Xbox today is a portal to all kinds of media, but it’s static and unchanging, not customizable and upgradable like a PC.

The Xbox 720 meanwhile may be a whole lot like a PC.

In December 2010, Microsoft filed a patent application filed with the US Patents and Trademark Office and posters in the Beyond3D Forum (via Eurogamer) recently printed its details online.

Application 20120159090 abstract reads: “Versions of a multimedia computer system architecture are desrcibed 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.” In short, it’s a video game console that can be upgraded with new hardware capabilities, not just new software interfaces like the Xbox 360’s dashboard, as it ages over time.

All the evidence to date suggests that the machine described here will be the Xbox 720. The images included alongside the patent application line up conspicuously with the codenamed “Yukon” console described in the leaked Microsoft Xbox 10-year plan document that hit the web in June.

Unlike that document however this application details the Xbox 720’s upgradeable nature not from marketing and brand perspective, but from the hardware angle. This machine, whether it will be called Xbox 720 or Durango or something else entirely, will be built on a “base architecture” with multiple CPU/GPUs, each pairing devoted to separate functions like video games and apps. This set up could offer tiered models that vary in price, much like the Xbox 360 did with its Arcade and Pro models, but also capabilities similar to the differences in Apple’s MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.

Like the leaked 10-year plan document, this patent is from 2010, so Microsoft’s plans could look very different today than they did 2 years ago. Considering how Microsoft’s intense push into television and other media services on the Xbox 360 gel with the previously leaked document though, this patent should be considered a valuable look into the company’s future console plans.