Hey Microsoft, this isn't 1965. Computers don't take up entire rooms anymore. And hard drives are cheap.
With the Elite looking to get a $US100 price cut, you'll be able to purchase a 120GB Xbox 360 console for $US299. Yet the retail price on the 360's 120GB drive is still more than half that ($US160).
Even though most retailers shaved the price down to about $US135, the idea that we should be paying anything approaching a dollar per gig is ludicrous, let alone even more.
Both Sony and Nintendo—two companies not necessarily renown for open hardware platforms—have both addressed and solved the issue of rapidly dropping storage prices on their current consoles by handing the reins to their users. The Wii has always been equipped with an SD slot that now even accepts stock 32GB SDHC cards—normal, consumer-grade tech that you can price-compare anywhere. And the PS3 has supported users who wanted to install their own hard drives (or even Linux!) since day freaking one.
Yet Microsoft, who has put forth so much effort in securing deals like Netflix and offering us a New Xbox Experience, is stuck in a proprietary hard drive pricing pattern so old that it probably doesn't know women can vote, man's walked on the moon or we have zero-calorie sweetners.
I know what you're thinking: Microsoft charges a lot for their drive because it's some special, expensive to produce tech. It's not. Inside that plastic shell is a stock, boring-as-hell 2.5-inch laptop drive. And you can find such a drive with 500GB of storage for $US90 right now.
Keep in mind that Microsoft is buying in bulk.
Oh, and then there's the point that Microsoft is really, really, really, really stupid for not just subsidising hard drives to begin with. How many of us with 20GB HDDs have gone to download demos only to find our drives full? How many of us are daunted by DLC because we know an extra few maps will necessitate deleting content? And while I know Microsoft doesn't take the 360's video store seriously, how could they ever expect any of us to have the free space to download I Love You Man?
But everything I listed above—that's not the worst of it. It's one final kick in the nuts that Microsoft has sent to those of us willing to do some modding ourselves that rubs me the wrong way.
While I could just pop open my 360 hard drive case and toss in a new drive myself (of course, I get to feel like a criminal while doing so as the process requires a separate PC and various unauthorised firmware files), Microsoft has limited the 360 to only supporting hard drives in their designated 20GB, 60GB and 120GB sizes.
So in other words, even though I can technically go through the trouble of installing a sweet, 500GB of storage capable of holding my entire game collection, Microsoft has taken the time specifically to thwart me in that endeavour. Doing my own installation is no longer a treat, like sticking a turbocharger on an engine. Instead it becomes a home repair I do myself to save a few bucks, like negotiating a new drain line to my dishwasher.
I never thought I'd see a day when Microsoft was more willing to give away software than hardware. But in a great irony, their latest dashboard update is once again free. The dinky hard drive to store it on? That'll still cost ya...more than even a new copy of Windows 7 Home Premium.