This year, Microsoft has turned it-self into a box of nice surprises since it announced 2 new products that have recently generated some buzz: Zune HD and Project Natal.
Let's start with the Zune HD. This mobile wonder will have a larger screen with both, touch and OLED technology, point-to-zoom functionality, a built-in accelerometer, and touchscreen QWERTY keyboard.
I'm really excited with the news of OLED display: more vivid colors, higher contrast levels and less energy consumption But I'm more excited with the recent confirmation that it will also include a Tegra GPU, which means no more no less than: gfx hardware acceleration!!!
Now the question is: does this mean it will include a mobile version of D3D? No one outside Microsoft knows. Time will tell, but I'd love to see a built-in 3D support in this upcoming line of devices. Don't you?
So, let's hope MSFT hear our prayers and lets us create (and sell) some outstanding 3D XNA-based games for the Zune HD market.
Now, what's "Project Natal"?
Well, during E3 MSFT presented a new device as means of controlling 360's games without using a gamepad nor any other standard input controller. Just a stereoscopic camera, your body and your voice.
Don't you believe me? Then watch this video:
Fantastic! On the PC business, OS & touchable screens will accompany this trend and to some extent all standard controllers will tremble, in special the old mouse and the traditional keyboard hardware.
In a way, it's like taking the first steps to enter the tech-era of the film "Minority Report". Which is great! The challenge: as usual, learning-curve easiness vs. heavily-established users' customs.
This will indeed require a lot of fresh creativity to ease the transition in the UX towards a real gain in motion richness and more intuitive control.
Can you imagine playing an FPS game with just your body & voice? It won't be easy but eventually we all will, hard-core and casual gamers.
I guess at first it will be kinda blind search until developers find "a pattern" accepted by most gamers, not to mention the efforts and futuristic gadgets to bring back the always welcome force feedback in Natal'ed games. But I also guess it will be great to combine sports and games: "Do some fitness as you play".
Ok, enough small talk. Let's concentrate on the rumors around this incredible device.
As soon as the first images, videos and live demos of "Project Natal" were shown during Microsoft's conference on the past E3, many sites started to speculate on the release of a successor console from 2010 and on with an upgraded internal hardware.
This rumor was reinforced when a change in the hardware of the XBox 360 Arcade edition console was finally confirmed (an increase of the built-in memory module from 256 to 512MB).
Hold your horses! Some sites have been spreading the word that MSFT execs have confirmed mainly two things:
- First, "Project Natal" will work on existing 360 consoles, and
- Second, the 360 is half-way far from reaching the end of its lifecycle.
So, let's cut with this speculation trend and wait for it either in solo or bundled offers ... One thing to note though, this recent post on TeamXBox's twitter:
...in addition to built-in Natal tech, a key feature of the next Xbox would be full HD stereoscopic 3D visuals similar to 3D movie theatres.
HD stereoscopic 3D visuals ... Wow! But wait, "... of the next Xbox would be ...". Ok guys, please make up your minds ... humm ...
No release dates (nor prices) have been officially announced for both products, the Zune HD and the "Project Natal", but a few sites claim that Amazon is listing the Zune HD for September 2009.
Regarding Project Natal's release date, no word or hint, unless the latin word "Natal" not only was chosen because it means (related to) "Birth", but also taking into account its additional meaning: Christmas! Wouldn't be great to receive such a present this December'09? I'm really shooting at random here, but I really hope so ...
> Link to Spanish version.