Microsoft Already Planning Xbox One ARM-based CPU?

Microsoft may already be planning for the next generation Xbox One gaming console based on separate news nuggets that have emerged over the last four weeks and lead us to believe that the next CPU powering the console will be ARM-based.

First, there's this statement by Chris Lewis, the head of Microsoft's gaming division in Europe, who said that the current Xbox 360 gaming console is likely to be around for another five years, meaning that the next Xbox would come out around 2015, a decade after the release of the Xbox 360 which itself came four years after the original Xbox.

Then, there's the announcement that Microsoft has licensed the architecture IP of ARM, one month ago and the presentation made a few days ago at Hot Chips by Microsoft's Xbox team where they detailed the innards of the new Xbox 360 gaming console.

It turned out as Ars Technica points out, that the guys at Microsoft did a lot of the layout (and possibly all of it) and that's a very good omen for the future.

Ironically, Microsoft has had to hold back on increasing the current Xbox 360 performance because it is not allowed; this helps Microsoft to extend the longevity of the gaming platform as a whole and maintain some homogeneity.

The new Xbox 360 still contains those three 3.2GHz Power PC cores with 1MB L2 cache, a 500MHz ATI-based GPU and 512MB unified memory.

The next obvious step would be for Microsoft to use something like the next generation of ARM processor core, the one that comes AFTER the Eagle, in its next generation Xbox 720.

Next generation ARM processor technology will be natively multicore, capable of reaching multi-Ghz speeds and powerful enough to match the decade old performance of the Xbox 360 cores while keeping power consumption, costs and die-size at an absolute low.

It will also be interesting to see how Microsoft plays up with Mali, ARM's graphics technology.

Back in March 2009, Remi Pedersen, graphics product manager at ARM, already promised that users would be able to Xbox-like games later that year thanks to the Mali-400MP which can scale to four cores and with ARM planning 1080p60 full HD support for 2013, it's not hard to imagine how Microsoft may use the technology by 2015. (PS : check the ARM Mali "Canvas" Demo for more).

The final reason why Microsoft would adopt ARM lies in the fact that mobile gaming is going to be huge over the next few years and since most handsets will still be running ARM-based derivatives by then, coding for only one integrated platform makes sense, especially when it comes to scaling across various resolutions (and screen sizes).