Earlier we reported on rumors put forward about a new Xbox One hardware announcement at this years June's E3 convention. Now it looks like more details are making its way around the web not just about Xbox's new hardware this year, but Microsoft's approach towards the Xbox platform going forward.
A report by Kotaku, citing unnamed sources, also points towards a new compact Xbox One being announced at E3 and launched sometime before the end of 2016. It will be slimmer but will also include a 2TB hard drive, which doubles the amount of storage over the current largest version.
The Kotaku report also includes rumors regarding the next major step in Xbox hardware and the Xbox One console. Apparently, the Xbox team is working on a new Xbox for 2017, codenamed Scorpio. It will have a more powerful GPU which is "technically capable" of supporting the Oculus Rift. Kotaku says that Microsoft is pursuing a partnership with Oculus, which would mean the next iteration of the Xbox One could be VR enabled and possibly compatible with the current consumer version of the Oculus Rift.
This makes sense as Sony has committed to launching PlayStation VR later this year and is rumored to be releasing a PlayStation 4.5 to support PlayStation VR. It would also be a huge boost for the emerging VR industry if VR is accessible through your living room with a standard game console instead of being tethered to an expensive PC gaming tower. Given the advances recently in GPU cards, such as NVIDIA's new 1080 cards using the new Pascal architecture, it seems increasingly feasible for console manufacturers to deliver VR capable hardware at a reasonable price point short of buying a $1000 gaming console on top of a $600 headset.
The report by Kotaku also suggests that Microsoft will be changing its business model for Xbox, which was also hinted at in Sam's podcast. Sams said that going forward Microsoft will approach Xbox as a platform. The Kotaku report states that Microsoft will move towards an "an iterative approach for their consoles, not unlike Apple." Hardware will be refreshed on a more frequent basis than the current model of a new generation emerging approximately every five years.
What's more is that this new approach to Xbox as a Platform will be part of Microsoft's wider strategy to merge gaming on Xbox and Windows, a strategy codenamed Project Helix. This includes a mandate from Microsoft to have flagship series like Halo to be launched on both platforms; something we have begun to see already this year. And as part of this model to release new Xbox hardware incrementally, there will be a strategy to make sure games are both forwards and backward compatible across both Windows 10 and future Xbox models.
The last part of Kotaku's report says that designs of Scorpio are not finalized, and it remains to be seen if it will support 4K resolution gaming. Currently, the new GPU design for Scorpio is capable of supporting 4K resolutions. However, the console's ability to transfer data from storage devices like the hard drive or blue-ray disks to the processors' memory needs to be upgraded in order for Scorpio to be capable fo 4K gaming. As with most decisions in life and tech, there is a trade-off to the greater graphics of having longer load times because of, the larger amounts of data involved in 4k gaming.
Again it is important to keep in mind that all of the reports emerging this morning are rumors, and accordingly take them only with a healthy dose of salt. With E3 fast approaching, it is likely we will only hear more and more making their way around the internet. Given Sony's commitment to VR, and Microsoft's previous commitments with making the Xbox a Windows 10 device, both of the rumors from Kotaku fit in line with bigger trends. But we will have to wait until June at the E3 Xbox briefing to official know anything about the next steps in Xbox hardware, VR gaming in the living room, and PC-Console gaming convergence.