The upcoming Xbox Live fall update will add many features for gold subscribers, including an MSNBC news feed, high-definition Zune videos, and a music-focused marketplace, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm integration.
However, the update will also take something away from users of third-party memory devices for the Xbox 360. In a post over the weekend, Xbox Live director of programming Larry "Major Nelson" issued the following warning:
"When Preview Program members start receiving the Xbox 360 system update next week, one of the changes is that unauthorized Memory Units will no longer work with the Xbox 360. If you've moved your profile or saved games onto one to 'back it up,' you'd better move it back onto an authorized Xbox 360 storage device prior to taking the update. If you continue to use an unauthorized Memory Unit after the update, you will not be able to access your stored profile or saved games."
Though Hryb linked to an example of a Microsoft-made, $30 512MB Memory Unit as an example of authorized hardware, he did not identify any third-party manufacturers whose products would be locked out by the update. Xbox.com lists only Microsoft-made items and those bearing green "Licensed for Xbox 360" or white-and-green "Created by Xbox" labels as being supported.
Microsoft reps did not respond to requests for clarification as to which third-party memory devices would be locked out by the update. However, several products from British electronic firm Datel are likely targets. The company makes a variety of Xbox 360 add-ons, including high-capacity Memory Units and a peripheral that allows players to move files back and forth from the console's hard drive to a PC.
Microsoft's move will further anger critics of its Xbox 360 memory unit and hard drive pricing. Currently a 120GB hard drive costs $150 and the $100 Xbox Live starter pack comes with a 60GB hard drive. By contrast, Nintendo's Wii supports high-capacity SD memory cards from any manufacturer and Sony's PlayStation 3 lets owners install internal third-party hard drives without voiding the console's warranty.
[UPDATE] A Microsoft rep has since reiterated Hyrb's comments that the XBL update "will disable the use of unauthorized Memory Units with the Xbox 360. Memory Units without an official Xbox 360 licensed logo are considered unauthorized and are not guaranteed to work with your Xbox 360 console." However, the rep declined to say if the ban applied to Datel Memory Units specifically, saying only Microsoft would not guarantee that any unit not bearing an official approval label would work post-update.
In terms of other devices, the rep said there are no plans to change the 360's current limited connectivity with third-party hard drives and memory sticks. Both can be used to transfer or stream media such as music and photos onto a 360. However, game saves and other content downloaded from Xbox Live cannot be moved off a 360's hard drive legitimately other than through Microsoft-approved Memory Units, which top out at 512KB.