Throwback: Inside Xbox 360 (Premium)

With Microsoft poised to launch the Xbox Series X this year, I thought it would be fun to look back on an earlier Xbox launch: I5 years ago, I was given an early peek at the Xbox 360.

Here’s my original write-up, with a few notes as needed.
Inside Xbox 360: An interview with Jeff Henshaw
In an earlier showcase, MSN: The Inside Story, I noted that part of MSN's aura comes from its physical isolation from Microsoft's main campus in Redmond. But MSN, ensconced in the so-called Red West campus, is at least located in the same neighborhood as the main campus. The Xbox team, by comparison, is miles away at the Millennium Campus, found in the far end of Redmond. Sandwiched between an extremely rural area and the type of rapidly growing suburb that now dominates Seattle area's West Side, Millennium Campus might as well be on a completely different planet from the main Microsoft campus. It's that far removed.

The differences between the place the Xbox team calls home and the main Microsoft campus are further amplified when you walk in the door. Everyone there seems to understand that they're in the business of entertainment, from the receptionist who instantly started joking around with me to the Master Chief statue that guards the entrance: A now-wilted flower had been taped to one of the Chief's guns in an apparent bid to tone down his otherwise violent pose. On the walls in reception are shipment awards, commemorating various milestones such as Halo's 1 millionth sale or Project Gotham Racing's 3 millionth.

Then I found out I was in the wrong building. Hey, it was my first visit. When I arrived over in Millennium B (I had walked into Millennium D by mistake), I discovered that even the Xbox team's meeting rooms were different than those found throughout the rest of Microsoft. Instead of the Death Star meeting room effect that dominates so many of my Microsoft meetings, the triangular meeting room in Millennium B features plush chairs, an HDTV flat panel display, a 5.1 surround sound speaker system and, oh, an Xbox 360 prototype system with four wireless controllers. Yippee.

Of course, at this stage in the game, the Xbox 360 is really three linked Power Mac G5 development systems. But Microsoft has already made progress since the Xbox 360's debut last month at E3 and I was able to get a few demos that only recently started working, such as portable audio player and digital camera support.

I distinctly remember this prototype, mostly for its size, which was enormous, and the amount of heat and noise it generated. Microsoft had just revealed the Xbox 360 form factor before my visit and I asked Jeff how on earth they were going to fit the processing power from those three Mac towers into the tiny white case. He said, “Oh, we got guys working on that.”

I met with Jeff Henshaw, the Executive Producer for Xbox Digital Entertainment at Microsoft. Jeff was part of the team that launched the original Xbox, and these d...

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