May 9, 2005 2:50 PM PDT

Spilling the beans on Xbox 360

At a taping of MTV's special showing of the Xbox 360 last week, the 200-odd attendees were asked not to reveal the secrets they were privy to at the event. A few, naturally, couldn't help but spill the beans.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, those few were also armed with digital cameras, and they snapped pictures of the Xbox 360 console, which will officially be unveiled on Thursday. One photo of the console confirmed the authenticity of earlier pictures showing a silver, slightly concave-shaped console that looks almost as though it's designed to sit atop the slightly convex current-generation Xbox.

The picture--which reportedly first surfaced over the weekend on Engadget.com--also confirmed the so-called "ring of light" theory, which had said the device would sport an oversize power button surrounded by a ring of LEDs and would also feature two slots for 64MB memory cards and one for a 40GB hard drive on the console's side. (This report was amended to reflect updated GameSpot report.)

Besides the Xbox 360 itself, the leaked snapshot showed three peripherals, including its controller. The controller pictured was clearly the same as that shown in pictures "leaked" by the Microsoft-associated teaser site Ourcolony.net. That site also recently released another picture that shows the controller in more detail, including what appears to be the new Xbox logo--the same globular insignia featured in a shot leaked months ago. It also shows what appears to be a charging port on the bottom of the console.

Besides the controller, other Xbox 360 peripherals pictured in the leaked photo were an apparently wireless headset and an EyeToy-like camera. The latter recalls the add-on mentioned by J Allard, Microsoft's corporate vice president and chief XNA architect at last year's E3, one which, as evidenced by Allard's demonstrative chit-chat with comedian Jenny McCarthy, would allow Xbox Live subscribers to videoconference with one another.

Another photo leaked from the event shows a DVD remote for the Xbox 360 which, besides re-confirming the globular Xbox logo, appears to have some sort of Windows functionality. Beneath the traditional X/Y/A/B button configuration is a button with the distinctive Windows logo. Given recent comments by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, it is likely that the insignia means that at least one version of the Xbox 360 will have Windows Media Center functionality.

Last but not least, a new image leaked on Ourcolony.net indicates that the Xbox 360 will have customizable skins. The image shows five examples of the increasingly iconic power button--which is also featured as one of the rotating images on Ourcolony.net's home page--surrounded by multicolored patterns reminiscent of many currently available console skins. Such a feature would be in line with Allard's keynote at this year's Game Developers Conference, in which he talked about the customization demanded by today's youth, which he deemed "Generation Remix."

While convincing, it must be emphasized that none of the images have been confirmed by Microsoft. Spokespersons for the company could not officially comment on the pictures.

Speculation about upcoming consumer products can turn into something of a sport. Last year, Mac fan sites were buzzing with speculation about the design of Apple Computer's newest iMac just before it came out. Photos of the product supposedly taken in a Paris airport elevator hit the Web, but were later declared a hoax.

Tor Thorsen reported for GameSpot. CNET News.com staff contributed to this article.

 

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