This weekend's big news is of course the unveiling of the Xbox 360. The new console system debuted on MTV Thursday, with Microsoft revealing the white-and-silver console and what secrets it contains. No less than three IBM microprocessors will be utilised to provide a whole new generation of gaming performance that leaves the original Xbox standing still.

The Xbox is powered by a 733-megahertz central processor. The central processing unit in Xbox 360 has three 3.2-gigahertz processors. Each processor is four times faster than the original Xbox.

Together these chips deliver 1 trillion calculations per second, which puts it in the same teraflop category as the supercomputers of just a few years back. This massive amount of data crunching generates so much heat that the Xbox has a water cooling system like an automobile's radiator.

Steven L. Kent, author of "The Ultimate History of Video Games," described the difference between the old and new Xbox as akin to "race cars and rockets", saying that whilst both consoles were made for speed, the new Xbox was in a whole other order of magnitude. All of this speed will not come at the expense of new functionality, with the new Xbox offering players wide screens, high-definition images, surround-sound and an improved ability to cater to multiple players and online competition. But games are not all that the new Xbox caters to: the Xbox 360 can also serve as a home entertainment system that can play mp3s, view photos and videos and stream broadband to a TV. The new Xbox also includes a 20-gigabyte hard drive, three USB ports that permit one to plug in things like a digital camera, an external hard drive, a camcorder or a keyboard, so that the device can be used to send e-mail or to exchange text messages.

Some care has also been taken to address concerns from users that the original Xbox took up too much space on the living room floor.

The new console will be about 20 percent smaller. It will also allow interior-decor-conscious gamers to snap on or off faceplates to customize this machine's cream-white appearance.

Xbox 360 should be immediately supported by a growing number of games titles, since apparently EA has been working on Xbox 360 titles for more than two years now. During the US airing of the Xbox 360 MTV special, the new Xbox 360 version of Need For Speed: Most Wanted was demonstrated to great effect.

The only potential downside is compatibility with older Xbox games. According to Engadget, no one yet has been able to give a complete, straight answer as to whether the Xbox 360 will be fully compatible with games for the original Xbox. So stay tuned for an answer to that question.

No one seemed to know for sure, but don't feel bad, because it turns out that not even Microsoft knows for sure. At least, that's what they're saying, with Peter Moore, baby daddy VP of Worldwide Marketing and Publishing for the Xbox, admitting in an interview last week that they simply haven't sorted out what's going on with backwards compatibility yet.