Microsoft took grief for building its original Xbox with “off the shelf” parts, but it appears going with a known commodity may have prevented the infamous “red rings of death” in the company’s new Xbox 360.
Speaking at the Design Automation Conference, Gartner analyst Bryan Lewis said that Microsoft sought to save money by creating its own graphics chip for the Xbox 360, but the decision ultimately resulted in a $1 billion recall/replacement for Xbox 360 consoles worldwide.
According to an article in EE Times,
The Xbox 360 recall a year ago happened because “Microsoft wanted to avoid an ASIC vendor,” said Lewis. Microsoft designed the graphic chip on its own, cut a traditional ASIC vendor out of the process and went straight to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., he explained.
[But to fix the Xbox 360’s red ring of death issues], … Microsoft went back to an unnamed ASIC vendor based in the United States and redesigned the chip, Lewis added.
…Asked the moral of the story, Lewis said: “Had Microsoft left the graphics processor design to an ASIC vendor in the first place, would they have been able to avoid this problem?
“Probably. The ASIC vendor could have been able to design a graphics processor that dissipates much less power.”
So there you have it. Microsoft listened to investors, who wanted lower costs, faster production and ideally less chance of piracy and hacking. What the company got in return was a PR and financial headache that echoes to this day, justified or not.