The development hardware for Microsoft's Xbox 2 is moving closer to the final specification of the console - with key technology partner ATI reported to be ready to roll out the R500 graphics chipset which will power the system.
The R500 is similar in many ways to the R520 graphics part which will power ATI's next generation PC graphics boards, and while exactly specifications aren't currently available for the part, it's known to be based on Shader Model 3.0, like NVIDIA's current high-end GeForce 6800 cards.
At present most developers working on Xbox 2 hardware - codenamed Xenon - are using PowerMac G5 systems with ATI Radeon 9800 boards, which don't support Shader Model 3.0, so the arrival of the proper graphics hardware will undoubtedly come as a relief.
Technology news website The Inquirer reports that the roll-out of the R500 part is beginning now, which means that it's likely to be in the hands of developers ahead of the expected official unveiling of Xbox 2 to the public at the Consumer Electronics Show at the start of January.
Xbox 2 is expected to use the ATI chipset in conjunction with a multi-processor architecture using IBM's PowerPC CPUs - hence the use of Apple's PowerMac hardware, albeit with the Apple logo carefully removed on some models, for early development kits.