The Xbox One will launch with a 500 GB internal, non-interchangeable hard drive. 500 GB would be an awfully confining storage space in the modern age of game installations, and downloadable games, movies, and music. Microsoft’s solution for users who need more storage space is external hard drive support. The Xbox One will support USB 3.0 hard drives, giving users a potentially unlimited (and relatively affordable) amount of storage space.
Unfortunately though, Xbox One users will not be able to take advantage of external storage solutions at launch. Larry Hyrb (Xbox Live’s Major Nelson) quietly dropped the news this weekend on his podcast. Why the delay and how much impact will it have? Read on to find out…
Okay, so it’s more of a hand grenade than a bombshell, but still not what anyone could call good news:
“The Xbox One will ship with the 500 GB hard drive - all of them have that. The future plan is definitely to support external storage much like we do on the Xbox 360. My understanding is that feature will not be there at launch, because the team is working on some other things, but it is definitely on the list. I don't know when it will come in though.”
It’s unusual but not unprecedented for features that were announced prior to a console’s launch to be delayed until some point after the system arrives in stores. Last year, the Nintendo Wii U’s TVii video on demand feature, as well as several video on demand apps like Netflix experienced just such a delay.
Still, delaying what should be a relatively simple feature – external drive support – is an odd move. In the absence of an official reason for the delay, we must guess at it. The only possible reason I can imagine for the delay involves digital rights management and encryption.
See, Microsoft knows users need to be able to install and run games from external drives; there’s no debate there. But they REALLY don’t want unscrupulous users (Brazilians… err, just kidding!) to copy those files around. This delay tells us that setting up that encryption is taking longer than expected; hence external drive support will come after launch instead of with it.
Little harm done, most likely
Is the delay a bad thing? Of course, but probably not that bad. It won’t actually inconvenience most users unless they fill up their hard drives before the update comes along that will enable the feature. Remember, every Xbox One game must be installed to the hard drive. People who buy or play a lot of games (like me) might run into trouble if the update takes too long. Also, anyone who plans to use their external hard drive to transport save files between multiple consoles (which also applies to me) won’t be able to do so right out of the gate. I expect that cloud saving will take care of that problem though.
We can’t fault Microsoft too much for not having external drive support ready for the Xbox One launch. Who knows what technical challenges they face in creating a new and secure encryption method? But the news would sting less if we knew a time frame in which to expect the support to be added. Perhaps Microsoft will say more about that before the system launches.
Meanwhile, no external drive support has been announced for the Playstation 4. However, like the Playstation 3 the internal hard drive will be upgradable by the user. Neither system's storage policy unequivocally wins out; it all comes down to user preference.