Next Generation Hardware Speculation

Yesterday there were a couple of announcements that seem to impact the next generation of video game consoles.  First, IBM, Sony and Toshiba announced that they will be making an announcement about the details of the Cell chip early next year.  Not too long after that, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Brothers announced that they will be shipping movies in HD-DVD format in time for the holiday shopping season next year.

(Insert standard disclaimer here about all opinions being mine and not that of Microsoft, my having no inside information about the Xbox, etc.)

Of the two, the Cell stuff interests me more.  As a hardware guy in college, microprocessors and low-level software have always interested me.  And so far, Sony's very much over-hyped what the Cell is going to be capable of .... even in the announcement yesterday it says "a one-rack server equipped with a Cell processor system will march with a performance rating of 16 TFlops", yet if they expect to put these things in the PS3, HDTVs, and other consumer electronics, their cost can't be much more than that of a standard desktop processor ... I'd venture to say that they probably can't be much more than $150 or so in bulk, assuming a $300 launch price for the PS3.  There must be some pretty interesting technology on this chip if its going to be able to deliver that type of performance at that price point.  I'm very interested in seeing more specifications on this chip at some point in the future.

They also say in their announcement that we've reached the limits of current PC architecture, not something I necessarily agree with, however that also indicates to me that they've go some interesting designs to show us next year.

At first I thought the HD-DVD announcement would be a huge plus for any possible successor to the Xbox.  Since one of the mandatory HD-DVD codecs is Windows Media 9, it would make sense that any future Microsoft console would choose HD-DVD over Blu-Ray; while Sony is one of the companies behind Blue-Ray, they'll obviously choose that for PS3.  Both formats seem to have their advantages, HD-DVD will be cheaper for existing production lines to make, while Blu-Ray can hold more data.  That makes me think that the initial push will be toward HD-DVD, with Blu-Ray really needing to have some compelling content to push consumers that way.  However, with Sony owning both MGM and Columbia, it would seem that there is a definite chance they will be able to push consumers toward Blu-Ray by refusing to release any HD-DVD movies.

To be honest, I just hope that a winner is decided quickly, before consumers are forced to purchase next-gen DVD players that play all three formats (assuming that legacy DVD will still be supported for a while), which will likely only increase our costs.  All that being said, reading a bit further into yesterday's announcement, it really turns out to be a non-issue, since everyone announcing initial support for HD-DVD said that they would support Blu-Ray if consumers demanded it.

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