Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has confirmed that the Xbox 360 is to support the HD-DVD next-generation disc standard, with an add-on HD-DVD drive to be launched for the console by the end of 2006.
Speaking in his keynote address ahead of the CES show in Las Vegas, Gates finally cleared up months of rumours and speculation over the platform's possible support for Toshiba's HD-DVD standard - which is set to challenge Sony's forthcoming Blu-Ray standard in the marketplace.
Microsoft's recently promoted head of games, Peter Moore, was invited to the stage to confirm that the HD-DVD external peripheral will launch before the end of the year - but no details on pricing or how it will connect to the console were revealed.
Bill Gates had previously stated that HD-DVD could be supported by Xbox 360 at some point, leading to speculation that an updated version of the console itself, with a built-in HD-DVD drive, could be on the cards.
However, Microsoft said late last year that no such update was being planned - and now it seems that the firm has opted for an external drive instead, following to some degree in the footsteps of products like Sega's MegaCD and Nintendo's 64DD.
Little detail about the new drive has been revealed, but it remains likely that it will only be designed to play back HD-DVD movie content, and will not be used for videogames content, as Xbox Japan boss Yoshihiro Maruyama hinted last year. Releasing HD-DVD games would force users to buy the peripheral before they could play the titles.
Sony's PlayStation 3, which will launch later this year, is set to feature a Blu-Ray drive in all models - a move which some analysts believe has added significantly to the manufacturing costs of the device.