The HD DVD X(box)-Factor

In his CES keynote address, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced that an external HD DVD drive will be offered as an accessory for the Xbox 360 later this year. The add-on will turn the game console into a high-definition movie player. He didn't announce its price.

Microsoft has sided with Toshiba and Intel in the next-generation-DVD format war. Sony, which supports the competing Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, has said that when it introduces the PlayStation 3 game console this year, it will have a Blu-ray drive for HD movie playback and other optical-disk chores.

The Xbox 360 accessory plays but doesn't record HD DVD movies. For recording as well as playing high-definition video, Gates suggested Windows Media Center Edition PCs equipped with HD DVD read/write drives to be available later this year.

Touting HD DVD's managed copying scheme to a computer's hard drive, Gates said a Media Center PC might let you access a library of stored high-def movies. Though the Xbox also contains a hard drive, its capacity is much lower than that of a typical computer, so it wouldn't make sense to use it for keeping copies of movies.

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