Leaked Xbox Details Heat Up Games WarFAR from conceding defeat in the games consoles war, Microsoft has started quietly releasing details of its next-generation Xbox. This time Microsoft hopes to steal a march on rival Sonys PlayStation 3 console, due in 2006, after Sonys PS2 beat the original Xbox to market by 20 months. Indications are that Microsoft plans to launch its new Xbox in the second half of 2005. To date, Sonys machine has outsold the Microsoft offering by five-to-one in the world market. Sony at present seems content to rest on its laurels with the PS2, and the interim combined PS2/video recorder machine - PSX - introduced in Japan late last year, but Microsoft has made clear that it considers the fight far from over. "Microsoft is in this for the long-term," says a company spokesman. Microsoft is likely to release details of the new Xbox at the Games Developers Conference in San Jose, California, next month, and the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in May, but it has also quietly started leaking details to US developers and analysts. According to reports in the San Francisco Mercury News, the new machine will be low-cost, with some advanced technology. The specifications will include: Three IBM-designed 64-bit microprocessors, which will give Xbox Next more computing power than most personal computers. An ATI Technologies graphics chip with speeds much faster than its upcoming R400 chip for the personal computer. This would help the console display games with the resolution of high-definition television. No hard drive - a marked contrast with the 8GB hard drive in the existing Xbox - opting instead for flash memory to store saved games and permanent data. About 256MB of dynamic random access memory, compared with 64MB on the original. Some form of video technology, although the current DVD format on the Xbox could well be superceded by newer Blu-Ray technology. Lastly, and most riskily for Microsoft, there is no guarantee the new machine will be compatible with the original Xbox. Reports indicate "Microsoft is concerned it would cost too much money in hardware and in licensing fees to enable the Xbox Next to play old Xbox games". The Mercury News, however, says the company is willing to change many of these specifications if it feels Sony is likely to supercede them. If the PlayStation 3 ships with a hard drive, Microsoft would be expected to put one back in Xbox Next. Similarly, if Sony packs in more DRAM, Microsoft would upgrade the new machines from 256MB to a heftier 512MB. Also, by leaking early details, the company is soliciting feedback from developers, who will be expected to produce games for the machine. One developer, for example, has already gone on the record to push for the inclusion of a hard drive. "I would really like to see a hard disk drive in the box," says Tim Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games in Raleigh, North Carolina. Sweeney has made his opinions known to Microsoft. "For a console to really have a useful online component, it has to have the hard drive to store downloaded maps and other data." The compatibility issue with the original Xbox is also stirring sharp reactions. "I cant imagine that Microsoft would be so insanely stupid as to make it incompatible," Jon Peddie, an analyst at Jon Peddie Research in Tiburon, told the Mercury News.