"Durango" Unchained: Will DRM cost Australians functionality with the new Xbox?

  • Microsoft's new Xbox is to be unveiled next month
  • Rumoured to be "always-on" fuelling speculation of DRM
  • Will DRM cost Australia the loss of functionality?

The rumors and speculation over Microsoft’s new model of their Xbox gaming console are in abundance ahead of a May 21st event that will the see the new console officially unveiled. In the build up to the event online users have been in discussion over the consoles specifications and features based on leaked reports. Beyond the basic improvement of graphic and processing power, there’s also been a lot of talk about new direction Microsoft is taking with the Xbox operating system.

 

Over the past few years the Xbox 360 has seen a transformation from a game console to a general purpose media device. The last few dashboard revisions have brought, along with revamp UI designs, a selection of media based applications such as NetFlix as well as Microsoft’s own video and music stores. More application choice is great but there is a catch.

 

The applications carry the prerequisite of a paid Xbox Live subscription. Those without a Xbox Live paid subscription are unable to use these applications. Furthermore, Australian users that have already paid for an Xbox Live subscription still don’t have access to all applications that US customers do. Massively popular streaming services like Netflix are unavailable to Australian customers due to DRM and Licensing issues.

 

 

The new revision of the Xbox, codenamed “Durango”, is reportedly taking this media-focused approach further. Apparently powered by an 8-Core SoC (System on Chip) clocked at 1.6Ghz along, the new system will have a low power usage fueling the pre-existing rumors that Microsoft is pushing for an “always-on” device. Many customers have responded negatively to the idea of an “always-on” in opposition to the DRM it promotes as well as the cost of running a device 24/7.

This along with reports that the new Xbox will be carrying Windows 8 as it’s operating system reinforces the idea that Microsoft is pushing for a more general purpose media device than just a game console.

 

The biggest issue with an always-on, always-connected device is that not everybody in Australia has the internet connection to sustain it. An always-connected console will be pulling data at different points throughout the day which can have a big impact on data usage. While most gamers will usually have intensive data plans, the general target audience that Microsoft is now pushing the Xbox brand towards won’t necessarily have the same. Furthermore, there’s an overwhelming amount of public negativity over the video game DRM that an always-connected console allows.

 

The general fear is that Microsoft will employ the use of always-on DRM with their games, requiring users to be constantly connected to the internet in order to verify the legitimacy of their copy. If the internet connection drops out or is unavailable then you won’t be able to use the content you’ve paid for. Any form of DRM poses a great level of restriction and annoyance for customers, “always-on” DRM is another behemoth altogether.

 

Beyond video games, the other issue of DRM lies with streaming media. It’s the reason that services like Netflix still aren’t offered in countries outside of the US. There’s a lot of streaming services out there that don’t have the correct licensing for availability outside of the US and this poses a problem for the new Xbox in Australia and similar countries. If the development team of the new Xbox is pushing it in the direction of your “go to lounge room media device”, of which is largely streamed media, then there may be a big hole in the functionality of the device for Australian customers.

 

It’s boils once again down to DRM and whether or not the new Xbox is “always-on” for DRM purposes or for a reason more useful to users. The new model will see an unveiling late next month.

 

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