Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., said in an interview that owners of Xbox 360 game console will be able to acquire external Blu-ray disc drive (BD) for the system as “accessory”. The add-on BD drive for Xbox 360 has been rumoured for over a year, but this time it looks like Microsoft is serious about supporting the format.
“Well, I don't know if we need to put Blu-ray in there – you'll be able to get Blu-ray drives as accessories,” said Steve Ballmer in an interview with Gizmodo web-site.
The comment by Mr. Ballmer does not seem to be truly surprising. While competing Sony PlayStation 3 game console does support Blu-ray and high-definition video downloads, Microsoft only supports downloads and plans to enable streaming of full-HD videos (1920x1080) later this year. Moreover, the price of Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite and Sony PlayStation 3 Slim 120GB is now equal – $299 – but Sony’s machine features Blu-ray, Bluetooth and integrated Wi-Fi controller. Even though wireless accessories can be obtained from Microsoft, Blu-ray still remains an exclusive feature of the PS3.
In fact, Blu-ray Xbox 360 add-on will hardly become something completely extraordinary for Microsoft. Even when Microsoft released HD DVD add-on for Xbox 360 it implied that it could create a similar player supporting Blu-ray. Moreover, a year ago industry rumours emerged that Microsoft did have an add-on BD drive for Xbox 360 in the roadmap (Microsoft later denied the information). Windows 7 operating systems also supports burning of Blu-ray discs and recognize their file structure. Finally, in a recent TV advertisement Microsoft said that Blu-ray support is one of the advantages that certain Windows-based computers have over Apple Macintosh systems.
The main reason why Microsoft is unenthusiastic regarding Blu-ray is mandatory support of BD-Java interactive technology and Sony’s reluctance to adopt competing tech called HDi that was developed by Microsoft. Even though Microsoft managed to push its VC-1 codec onto both Blu-ray and HD DVD markets, the company’s negative attitude towards Java prevented it from supporting the former standard in general. As a result, the company used to sell external HD DVD drive for Xbox 360. However, since HD DVD has vanished into oblivion, Microsoft does need a new high-definition video standard for those, who use X360 console as the entertainment center.