Microsoft's J Allard has unveiled the very first official details of the Next-Generation Xbox - Xenon - at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and introduced the world of gaming to the HD-Era.


Next-Generation Xbox dashboard screen


Key features of the next Xbox - which J Allard referred to as Xenon twice during his keynote speech - are said to include a custom-designed graphics processor by ATI and a multicore processor by IBM, which when combined offer more than a teraflop of targeted computing performance.

Explaining the leap from the current 3D Era to that of the HD Era, Allard told the assembled crowds "In the 3D era it was about online gaming, online gaming as a novelty or as a differentiator. In the HD era connected communities become the very essence of the experiences that we're creating and delivering"

Microsoft are pinning their hopes on the future of gaming being in 16x9 widescreen, high definition visuals and cinema style sound - possibly most interestingly though was the revelation that in the HD-Era Microsoft are going to "get rid of wires" which would confirm recent rumours of wireless controllers for the forthcoming Xbox, and may also hint towards compatibility with the forthcoming WiMAX Wireless networks which are currently in development.

"In the HD Era the platform is bigger than the processor" claimed Allard, before going on to bravely predict that "new technology and emerging consumer forces will come together to enable the rock stars of game development to shake up the old establishment and redefine entertainment as we know it".

The new 16:9 HDTV dashboard was also revealed during the presentation, and has a provisional name of "Xbox Guide", with Gamer Cards giving an at-a-glance guide to key Xbox Live features including gamertag name, number of online friends, player stats and key achievements.

A Marketplace will also open up the ability to browse by both game and genre, revealing episodic content, new game levels, maps, weapons and other add-ons which are available, alongside the ability to manage micro-transactions allowing for gamers to buy unique personalised features such as a one-off liveried car or player outfit.

Custom Playlists also look set to feature heavily in the next Xbox, with the ability not only to replace in-game soundtracks - even if developers haven't programmed in the function to allow it - but also offer a much more visual music player with track and artist information presented alongside cover artwork.