Microsoft announced plans to release an update for the Xbox 360 to support 1080p this fall. 1080p is currently the Holy Grail of Television resolutions. We also expect to see a HD DVD addon (USD $199.99) for the 360 in the mid-November timeframe.
1080p sets are *mostly* designed to accept that signal via a HDMI (fancy cable - that transfers digital video AND audio between two devices) interface. The Xbox360 has component and VGA outputs - both analog. No HDMI will mean potentially no 1080p for the average user. The signal will leave the 360 as 1080i (over component or VGA) and then get upscaled to 1080p by the television. This begs the question, why oh why no HDMI?
The guys over at IGN asked MS a few questions:
IGN: Will games begin to be developed with 1080p as the native resolution, or is the 360's new 1080p support an advance in the console's internal scaling abilities?
Microsoft: If developed, the Xbox 360 will support playback of native 1080p games and all existing Xbox 360 titles can be up-scaled to 1080p.
IGN : Does the Xbox 360 have the internal bandwidth between CPUs and graphics processors necessary to move a full 1080p image? There's a big difference between 1080i and the 3GB/s of 1080p.
Microsoft: No Comment.
IGN: There are very few 1080p native HDTVs that accept 1080p via Component connections. The signal will only come in as 1080i and be de-interlaced back to 1080p. How is the 360's new 1080p support, in practical application, going to be any different than what was already possible?
Microsoft: We can offer 1080p support through both the VGA connection and the Component connection.
IGN: Could Microsoft theoretically release an HDMI dongle-cable like the various other cables already available for the console? Is the current 360 hardware able to output a digital signal, or is it restricted to analog?
Microsoft: Xbox 360 supports HD Component video output, which is compatible with nearly every HD ready TV on the market today. That's not yet true for HDMI. We are watching the market closely and will continue to evaluate our solution, in the face of consumer demand.
At least Microsoft, like Sony, can now use the 1080p term in marketing docs and on shiny billboards... The "Ultimate Console" becomes the ultimate joke -- this neverending one-upmanship is silly and in the end hurts us, the gamers, and that bites my ass.