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Allard defends Xbox 360

Tough online test for Xbox bigwig.

Xbox chief J Allard was forced onto the defensive last night as he faced the gaming public in an hour-long live online chat to field questions on Microsoft's next generation gaming system.

Answering questions about its dual pricing decision, its "quite useless" hard-diskless core offering, and the high pricing of the hard drive add-on, Allard was given a tough time by his audience.

Asked 'Why even offer the core package? It seems quite useless', Allard responded "while we designed a no compromises game system, a huge percentage of our customers are not like the [hard-core] folks in this chat room.

Comparing the Xbox 360 to other successful entry-level consumer products such as the iPod Shuffle, Porsche Boxter, the 4:3 TV, and the 1 mega pixel digital camera, Allard asserted: "we designed the core system as a way to get folks to come into the family at a cheaper price and decide if and how they scale the system.

"The great thing about our approach unlike these examples is that the core owner can upgrade the system and match the capabilities of the premium system when the time is right for them," he insisted, but admitted core users would have to buy a £22.99 memory card in order to save their games, a point he said was "consistent with the games industry for the last decade".

Taken to task over the high price (£69.99) of the 20GB hard drive add-on, Allard responded: "the 20GB hard drive is a 2.5 inch user serviceable drive and is more expense than a pc "crack the box" drive. It's one of the reasons we pushed to create a compelling premium bundle."

In response to the "steep" asking price for the premium Xbox 360 bundle (GBP 279.99), Allard pulled no punches, arguing it was "great value" and that the capabilities offered in its forthcoming machine "are unmatched in the history of videogaming".

Comparing it to Sony's PlayStation 2 launch strategy, he asserted: "the PS2 launched at $368 (in Japan) with no hard drive, no online service, no [memory card], no wireless, no voice, no network adapter, no remote, and only support for two controllers.

"When you consider you are getting the most powerful games system, best CD player, digital media player, movie player, etcetera, it's a great value," he added.

Meanwhile, on the thorny issue of HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray, Allard said: "it's going to be interesting to see how and if a high def format for movies plays out," but later admitted "we prefer HD-DVD to Blu-Ray in terms of the flexibility it offers to different applications as well as the infrastructure costs to the market."

Elsewhere in this revealing discussion Allard addresses Microsoft's stance on why Wi-Fi wasn't included as standard, the role of the hard disk, backward compatibility and more. Read the full transcript at Major