Information is beginning to trickle in about the specs of the PS4 and 360-2. Some of the changes should make PC gamers excited about the future. Let's go ahead and outline some of the news coming in:
Code Named "Orbis"
AMD x86 processor
AMD Southern Islands GPU (7800 series)
Doubtful backward compatibility
June-May Debut (not on sale) E3 announcement
PowerPC processor again (4-6 cores, 1 kinect core, 1 OS core)
Dual AMD GPU's
Kinect built in
Blu-Ray or solid state card
Rumored internet based DRM measures
2013 launch, E3 annoucement
A lot of specs are trickling in with some interesting lay outs, especially for the PS4. I'm happy to see Sony moving away from the Emotion Engine and proprietary architectures and move into the x86 field. The use of the DX11 API will be a huge relief to developers who design their games for both consoles. It is also great for the PC crowd as developer's talents do not need to be split between multiple architectures.
Looking at the specs of the PS4, it is very doubtful that it will have backward compatibility. The Cell processor can not be emulated in real time on any consumer processor, so the only way for there to be BC is for a Cell chip to be embedded in the system. Hopefully Sony drops BC to keep costs down. I think BC is less of an issue these days. Bluray is sure to return as well as an AMD derived GPU, this time from the new Southern Islands line which includes the 7800 series. With a 2013 release date, this GPU may be a little long in the tooth but nothing is finalized.
As for the 360, the big news is integrated Kinect support and the possible addition of Blu-ray. Some rumors say MS is looking at solid state cards for physical sales, but will be focusing their efforts on digital downloads. Some sad news is that MS is seriously considering making the console have required internet connectivity to play games, even single player. How this will be employed is up in the air, but look for a large shift in DRM measures that may affect the legitimate gamer. An interesting development is the use of dual GPUs that can be used to generate alternating scan lines or be used independently, one as a GPU and one as a compute unit. Oh the physics possibilities! Lastly, A 6 core CPU is likely with one core for kinect processing and one for the background OS.
Both are likely to be announced at this year's E3 with a tentative release date of Q3-Q4 2013. Rumors have Sony trying to push their launch forward to beat MS to market this time.