The Next Xbox May Have ‘HDMI In’ Port. So?

The Next Xbox May Have ‘HDMI In’ Port. So?

A new source emails me several days ago. The source has access to a development kit for the next Xbox 360 — the codenamed Durango. Accurately describes the look of the new controller, but mentions something he’s confused about. The Durango he’s seen doesn’t just send a signal out through an HDMI port (that’s normal). It has an HDMI-in. That’s not normal.

Another source backs this port thing up — as does an official Microsoft document we were leaked some time ago which sketched out the “retail system block diagram”.


HDMI ports are used for consoles transmit high-quality video and audio signals, usually from the console to a TV and/or surround-sound system. But current consoles haven’t needed to receive an HDMI signal. Why would a Durango?

It could be a game development/prototype-hardware thing, although it’s an open question what special need a game developer would need with an HDMI-in. Plus, the diagram we’d seen earlier this year indicated the retail machine would have one (see above). The new source assumes that, since Xbox 360 development kits were nearly physically identical to Xbox 360s, Durangoes should be too.

So the better question worth asking is, what would we — gamers, regular people — need with an HDMI in?

Cue Tom Warren, tech site The Verge‘s ace reporter on all things Microsoft (he’s got a very good track record with this stuff). Yesterday, he reported:

Multiple sources familiar with the company’s Xbox plans have revealed to The Verge that Microsoft will introduce a feature that lets its next-generation console take over a TV and set-top box in a similar way to Google TV. We understand that the next Xbox will require an online connection to use the entertainment services, allowing them to be always-on for streaming and access to TV signals.

The functionality will work by taking a cable box signal and passing it through to the Xbox via HDMI, allowing Microsoft’s console to overlay a UI and features on top of an existing TV channel or set-top box… Extended support for various cable services will be rolled out gradually…

Now that? Yeah, that’d be a good thing to use an HDMI-in for.

Microsoft’s interest in using the Durango to enhance TV-viewing also tracks with information our own secrets-digger Superannuation presented yesterday:

A profile of the Video Cognition team on Microsoft’s career portal hints at how the VideoSurf tech will be applied to the [next-gen] Xbox platform. One Video Cognition engineer reveals that the team’s aims are “to radically change the way we watch TV,” and to leverage advances in gestural and voice control to “streamline the way viewers search, consume, and share content, minimising the time spent searching for programs, while maximising the viewing and sharing capacities.” Additionally, a recent job posting described Video Cognition as “one of the most strategic assets at Microsoft,” and the team is “building scalable services that enable magic scenarios for tens of millions of users worldwide.”

This could possibly suggest that the new Xbox will somehow integrate television content in a more meaningful manner (Netflix/TiVo-esque recommendations based on content analysis, maybe?), and perhaps lend credence to the constant rumours that Microsoft’s vision is a bit more broad than a mere games machine.

This is all very interesting, but is that The Verge report by Warren also a glimmer of hope up there that maybe this always-online stuff might just be for video services and therefore not be mandatory for playing games?

Warren has said that he believes Durango’s always-online requirement is for the console, but not necessarily to play games. (If that confuses you, you’re not alone. Unless always-online is an optional mode, a la the Wii’s 24/7 mode, it’s not clear how the former wouldn’t become a requirement for the latter). He also said on Monday “nobody knows how this always online Xbox stuff works,” referring to non-Microsoft folks, obviously.

We’re still waiting for any good source of our own to tell us always-online isn’t for games. Since our report last week about top sources saying the Durango needs an online connection to start games and apps, we’ve heard from yet another gaming industry source who says the requirement is for games — and yet another who says they simply haven’t heard one way or the other. All these people would be in a position to know, but not necessarily be in a position to have to know, not yet, not at this stage in the console’s gestation. We continue to allow for the possibility that Microsoft may — or has — changed their plans, which would make more sense than multiple sources for multiple outlets being so far off the mark.

It sure would be nice, albeit confusing, to hear a trusted source (or Microsoft, god forbid) say that always-online isn’t required for starting games and apps. For now, we’ll just keep trying to put the pieces together as best we can and keep you posted as we do.


  • I’m confused at how anyone would not understand what HDMI-in on the Xbox would be used for. Stephen, that’s a pretty standard feature on a lot of TV peripherals like PVRs and Bluray players. So was the RCA version on DVD players and VCR recorders. Passthrough AV isn’t anything new at all.

    • I’m with you there. Techspot seemed to have nailed it on the head.
      Here’s hoping they are correct!

    • But the VGLeaks article actually says: ‘Durango itself will also always be online like any other device (correct with rumors), but it will not be a requirement to play local content and it will not prevent playing used games.’

      That statement doesn’t make any sense. What other device is always online? I think for most people, the only one they would have is their wifi router. It almost sounds like: the device has to be online to work. But yeah, other than that their is nothing stopping you from playing the games offline.

      The other problem is that other sources don’t agree with VGLeaks, and that Orth guy certainly seemed to think the games required always on.

      • Define always online. Always requires an internet connection, or always has an internet connection even while in standby? My mobile phone is always online, according to the second definition.

        • That’s exactly what I’m getting at. What does always online actually mean? Basically I’m bracing myself for bad news, but I’m hoping MS isn’t stupid enough to do it.

  • I can’t think of many (if any) TVs that have HDMI out though.

    Maybe it’d be for an add on box like the PlayTV on the PS3?

  • The HDMI is rumoured for 2 reasons.

    1) New Xbox will record TV
    2) Xbox mini that connects to Durango to allow for BC

    • I really hope that if Durango has some form of backwards compat, it will be able to process a better resolution image and not have quite so many frame rate drops… That really does depend though if the rendering is done on Durango or the mini.

      What I am hoping, is if rendering is done on Durango that I don’t need to buy the mini, I can just plug my current Xbox in and enjoy last gen games rendered at proper 1080p.

    • It seems unlikely they’d use HDMI to record television signals. Firstly, it would be pretty CPU intensive compared to capturing the compressed MPEG stream directly and secondly, it isn’t clear the HDMI license would allow it.

  • HDMI in is so people can plug a 360 in and make it look like the 720 is backwards compatible. While using twice the power.

  • @soulblade64 The rumour is, that the Xbox Mini will connect to the new Xbox, and you’ll be able to use the new Xbox disc drive to play your 360 games. All the processing is done by the mini, and apparently the Durango may add AA and possibly up the frame rate.

    But again, all rumours. Hopefully true ones. But the mini will be doing the bulk of the grunt work.

    • See, if Durango can do AA, up the frame rate and up the resolution, I really hope it will work with my current Xbox 360 and that I won’t have to buy the Mini. Especially if the Mini is just a small Xbox with no optical drive.

  • my first 3dfx card was a Pure3d, it was a card that supplemented the 2d graphics card (a matrox mistique) it took the vga in and out again the Pure 3d did…..

    so it is possible to Improve or upscale

  • If this means I only have to glance at my Pip boy to see what is on TV while in game then thumbs up.

  • Sorry if I sound ignorant but I have no idea what the fuss is with the always online (possible) feature? the only way I can see it being an issue is for someone without internet. Is that really a common occurrence these days – I guess, (answering my own question), some people only use their mobile internet connection at home.

    • It’s only anecdotal evidence, but most of my friends don’t have their 360s connected to the internet. Not everyone has wifi in their home or can/wants to string network cables through a house, if they even want internet features at all- if you don’t play multiplayer or demos then there’s no real reason to connect in the first place.

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