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Updated CPU For 360 Next Year 124

Posted by Zonk
from the whirrrr dept.
Next Generation reports that Microsoft has already lined up a new CPU for their next-gen console. Production with the new chip should begin next year. From the article: "Singapore-based Chartered has been a supplier of less-advanced 90nm SOI CPU products since the Xbox 360 console launch. By implementing the newer 65nm SOI technology, the system's transistors will retain less charge, allowing the microprocessor to operate faster."
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Updated CPU For 360 Next Year

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  • Faster or cooler (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ahnteis (746045) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:03PM (#15175365)
    Consoles don't usually change their cpu speed, but it will probably run cooler.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      <joke>I'd expect to see the Turbo button on the console soon.<joke>
      • Oh how i miss the turbo button of yore...until PC manufacturers realised people just left it on all the time.
        • The answer to that is an adjustable rate.

          I would venture to say most algorithms are simple. They check to see if the input is occurring faster than humanly possible and if so, ignore it.

          However, if you could adjust the rate of rapid fire, and add some small amount of noise to the period of the rate, you could probably fool most rapid fire detection algorithms.

          At least, that was the premise when I was building my hack of the DualShock 2 controller.
          • Re:Adjustable Turbo (Score:2, Interesting)

            by dorbabil (969458)
            Hah.

            I'm surprised that I didn't immediately assume "Turbo" meant "repeating button presses"

            He was refering to the turbo button on old computers. It was essentially a button that increased the clock multiplier. I think the one on my 486 made it go from 100 to 133MHz, or 50 to 66MHz or something. It was so long ago, I don' remember.

            And then there was the 286 I had. The turbo button switched it from like 10MHz to 12MHz. Or was it KHz back then?
            • I remember those. I'm sort of surprised that you could just switch the clock multiplier while the CPU is on without causing any problems, though. But I guess if the pulses are just coming faster, it wouldn't be any wiser.
              • I believe that most of those turbo switches on 386's and higher did not actually change the clock speed - they just disabled/enabled cache.

                --jeffk++
                • Re:Adjustable Turbo (Score:5, Informative)

                  by cixelsyd (239) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:08PM (#15176058)
                  They were actually used to clock the processor DOWN. i.e. "Turbo" meant the processor ran at the full 25MHz or whatever, whereas with turbo disabled the processor ran at something like 4.77MHz to allow old DOS games and the like to run properly.
                  • by blincoln (592401) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:33PM (#15176273) Homepage Journal
                    They were actually used to clock the processor DOWN. i.e. "Turbo" meant the processor ran at the full 25MHz or whatever, whereas with turbo disabled the processor ran at something like 4.77MHz to allow old DOS games and the like to run properly.

                    Mod parent up, this is correct. A lot of really old software used the CPU timing instead of real-world time intervals. I remember in particular a biplane shoot-em-up that ran at ludicrous speed on a 486/33 in "turbo" mode.
                    • That was the idea at first, but then the two clock speeds seemed to be chosen almost at random once it became mainstream, although as games progressed to newer hardware, the speed they generally tried to clock to may have changed.
                    • > I remember in particular a biplane shoot-em-up that ran at ludicrous speed on a
                      > 486/33 in "turbo" mode.

                      I know a guy who wrote some PC games. He was told to leave them running too fast with turbo enabled (rather than make the guts of the game faster/better but not have the input that fast...if you see what I mean), but was told to leave it `too fast` as people who spent that much money on their PC wanted to see it running really fast.
                    • Re:Adjustable Turbo (Score:3, Informative)

                      by statusbar (314703)
                      This was most definitely the case with the 8088 and 80286. But I BELIEVE that some intel processors utilized dynamic logic, and as such, had a minimum clock frequency. With these processors you could not just reduce the clock, so they would simulate the slowing of the clock by disabling the cache which is very effective in slowing down your system.

                      --jeffk++
                    • I remember in particular a biplane shoot-em-up that ran at ludicrous speed on a 486/33 in "turbo" mode.

                      Would that by any chance be 'sopwith'? http://sopwith.classicgaming.gamespy.com/ [gamespy.com]
                      I remember trying to actually play that game with turbo enabled -- that was some hardcore fps :-)
                    • I remember "Magic Carpet". DOS based game, same problem. I'm currently setting up an old P3 that I will have to severely downclock to play it (along with some other old ones of mine).
                    • OMG RED BARON!

                      So scary that I know that =\

                      jesus I'm old.

                      --chitlenz
                    • So you skipped "Ridiculous Speed" and went straight to "Ludicrous Speed"?

                      Barf: We better get out of here in a hurry
                      Lonestar: Switch to secret hyper jets
                      Barf: Switching to secret hyper jets
                      Lonestar: Buckle up back there we're going to ... hyper-active

                      Colonel Sanders: We're closing in on them sir. In less than a minute Lonestar will be ours
                      Dark Helmet: Good. Prepare to attack
                      Colonel Sanders: Prepare to attack
                      Dark Helmet: On the count of three...One...Two...WAIT!? What happened? Where are they?
                      Colonel Sanders:
                    • Must have been the game "Sopwith."
                    • If you download DosBox, you can set the clock speed used to run old DOS games, and it works wonders. I know Magic Carpet works under it well, since just last week I helped my roommate get it up and running under it.
                    • Tried that. On my comp, DosBox actually runs too slowly for some of them. The video and controls are too jerky to play. Or maybe (since I don't remember setting the CPU speed) it's by default set too low?
              • People don't remember turbo buttons? Now I feel old, and I'm still in high school.
                • Same here. Except I think I only remember them because in 2001 (when I finished grade 6), the Elementary school still had 386's (or whatever they were). I'm quite sure my 486 didn't have one.
            • OIC

              Haha, it's been so long since I've seen one of those buttons, and with doing that controller project a year ago, the Recency Effect [wikipedia.org] kicked in.

              I thought something seemed amiss about that statement...haha
          • - - - - - - - - -


            You must be at least ^this^ old to have gotten the joke. For further information, see here [wikipedia.org].

        • i recon M$ will release a 1080p capable HDMI 360 with HD-DVD, it needs HDMI for HDCP and if it has HDMI it has to really do 1080p thus needs cpu brunt to do games in 1080p. i think i'll buy annother 360 to take to uni.
          • A have and have-not culture in the console world is a dangerous thing; look how badly the Jaguar CD failed, or the Mega 32X. Microsoft are already playing with fire by shipping Xboxen with and without hard drives. Do they really need to add pressure by shipping them with different optical drives? Imagine the first publisher to release an HD DVD only title, and then the shrieking of everyone with a regular DVD Xbox360 ...

        • you must have been really good at frogger, cause man, that timer would run out in about 5 seconds with the turbo button on...
  • Unless you're happy playing the older, slower games. Or will games not be allowed to take advantage of the new high speed?
    • Or... (Score:1, Troll)

      by sterno (16320)
      You buy a newer game that's designed for the uber hardware and then it turns out that it won't play on your slower version. Good plan Microsoft.
      • Yeah. I mean, it makes sense for non-games, so that the extra speed is nice but not important (ie you don't need to keep frame rates up to a certain level, or it's not unfair to one player in a multiplayer game). I'd imagine Microsoft will insist that games must run on all chips, but that's not going to satisfy everyone.
      • Re:Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Guspaz (556486) on Friday April 21, 2006 @05:13PM (#15177185)
        I doubt they'll run it at a higher clockspeed. They're implementing a die shrink, from 90nm to 65nm. This will run much cooler, resolving a lot of the 360s overheating issues. It also draws less power, potentially shrinking the 360's massive power brick.

        People are speculating about higher speeds simply BECAUSE a die shrink would probably ENABLE higher speeds. That doesn't mean that Microsoft will do anything with clockspeed. They probably won't.

        That said, they wouldn't be setting a precedent if they did raise clockspeed. Anybody remember the addon for the N64 that added more graphics memory? It enabled some games to run at higher framerates, with more detail. How is that any different from higher clockspeed in the 360? You have your "normal" mode that the game is targetted at, then you have your "enhanced" mode where more CPU power enables some more detail or features. That is no different than what Nintendo did with the N64.
        • Yeah but the memory expansion segmented the market and was baiscally disastrous for Nintendo. I had a lot of friends who were pissed they couldn't play single player mode in Perfect Dark unless they had the memory upgrade. Nintendo learned a hard lesson there.
        • It seems quite a bit different to me. The memory expansion was, I believe, around $20 seperate or included with DK64. While this would require buying a whole new system. A side note, why didn't Nintendo put 8 MB of RAM into the DS if they ran into the 4 MB limit on the N64?
          • Just to hazard a guess, but maybe because the N64 runs at a higher resolution than the DS? With that said, with the cost of memory nowadays, why not put the extra 4MB in?
        • by Lave (958216)
          That said, they wouldn't be setting a precedent if they did raise clockspeed. Anybody remember the addon for the N64 that added more graphics memory? It enabled some games to run at higher framerates, with more detail. How is that any different from higher clockspeed in the 360? You have your "normal" mode that the game is targetted at, then you have your "enhanced" mode where more CPU power enables some more detail or features. That is no different than what Nintendo did with the N64.

          Except it's complete

  • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:07PM (#15175419)
    By reducing the number of failed starts, the cost of each chip falls. By reducing the amount of silicon involved, power demands fall. Both of those reduce the cost of the console.
    • IIRC, the Xbox 360 does a series of tests at every startup & will reduce RAM or CPU (I can't remember which) clock speeds until the system passes the test.

      Or something like that.

      I remember commenting on the 90nm --> 65nm design when the Xbox360 first came out. It makes sense to wait for the gen 2 hardware that has a cooler CPU and the bugs worked out.
    • During a console's 5-6 year life almost all of them that have had any measure of success have had chip reductions.

      This includes both of the playstations and most certainly the ps3 as well, not sure about nintendo, but definately the genesis and older systems.
    • yet in the end it won't.

      Microsoft could make the system for $50 and still charge everyone $399.99 just like Sony would or Nintendo would.
      • First, Microsoft is aiming for market segment right now. They're willing to take a hit to get more people on their systems.

        Second, all companies in this industry make their money off of game liscensing fees. If they can make a minor profit on the console that's just icing on the cake (but they will take a loss on it if necessary).

        If MS could afford to build these things for $50, you can bet there would be $100 Xbox 360's on the shelves.
  • Well why not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBraynard (653724) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:08PM (#15175420) Journal
    If you can get a cheaper processor that uses less energy and install it into your console even though you've already shipped a million or so, why not?
    • Two good reasons why not

      1)Any bugs in the new processor could break existing apps. And a console can't patch them.
      2)Console games are typically optimized for the hardware. Some games may break due to timing changes of a faster processor.
      • Why assume any bugs?

        And I don't think it would break timing of anything. It's just technically slightly faster - the real key is the chip is cheaper to fab.

        • Because there's *always* bugs. Just like in software. I don't know any chip more complicated than an 8 bit microcontroller that doesn't have an errata page on it. Chips are complicated things.

          And it can break timing (not will, but can). THe idea of a console is that it never changes hardware. Some devs take advantage of that, and assume things will happen in time. If they don't, we'll get glitches or breaks in games. This one isn't an "it will happen", but an "it can happen". THe first is something
          • Well said.
            More to your point, assume the original processor had some bug / undocumented feature / behaviour that was mistakenly used (i.e conceptual bug) in some game, but works fine on the older chip. The new chip might change something minor like allowing instructions X and Y to run in parallel when they previously weren't, and then the software bug rears its head and crash.

            When you have software that needs to work and cannot be changed later, you quite surely test it as thoroughly as possible. So if you
          • I'm not an expert on this, but aren't the bugs in the design, not from the manufacturing process? It's just like writing software, they find design errors and declare them shippable if they are minor enough. Switching the manufacturing process shouldn't change the errata at all.

            Same goes for the timing, sure they might be able to run the new version at a higher clock rate, but they won't. Since it's the exact same design, the timing will be the same when run at the same rate.
            • IANAEE

              I belive that a die shrink often involves changes in the physical layout of a chip, due to various electrical/thermal/spooky effects. But you're right in that the logic of the chip shouldn't change...

              Can someone who knows more comment on this?

      • The GP is completely wrong. The advantage of a console for a games developer is one standard configuration. They rely on this to squeeze as much out of the platform as necessary, which is pretty much your second point. And as others have pointed out they may use less energy but that is just a side effect.

        Decreasing the feature size will increase the yield, and so the cost per chip will drop. This is the primary reason for the reduction. Your first point isn't technically wrong, just very unlikely. The behav
    • What would really be sweet is if you could buy the new cpu for $100 or so and install it yourself. Then you wouldn't have to buy a new console and it would appeal to the uber-geeks who love to take stuff apart and upgrade anyway.
  • Prediction (Score:2, Troll)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058)
    This thread will include a debate over whether there are 360s available yet. Testimonials will be provided on how many stores they went to in their town, and the terms FUD and shill will be used.
  • by pin0chet (963774) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:13PM (#15175468)
    So I was an early adopter, now I have to pay the price, watching as other gamers soon obtain the same console for the same price (presumably), but with a cooler processor that could even boost game performance. (speculation by TFA) This sort of yearly one-upsmanship is to be expected of other console manufacturers (There's this "one company" who releases enhanced versions of basically the same product at least once a year, but the name of the company slips my mind...) When the original Xbox was released and MS cut the price aggressively after a few months, they gave "credits" to early adopters who paid full price shortly after launch. Hopefully MS again recognizes its hardcore fans who acquired the 360 early in the production cycle will expect some sort of compensation for their willingness to purchase a console with apparent heat/performance issues.
    • Pretty much. Part of the reason why folks should think twice about doing business with Microsoft. I'm not saying this in some idealistic Linux zealot type way, but just from my own personal experience and beliefs. Microsoft is 100% about making money and 0% about actually delivering a product that does what *you* want it to. They intentionally cripple their software and features like requiring MCE for Xbox 360-PC interaction, etc.

      They have no real strategy or vision beyond "make money." They will do whateve

    • Hopefully MS again recognizes its hardcore fans who acquired the 360 early in the production cycle will expect some sort of compensation for their willingness to purchase a console with apparent heat/performance issues.


      In other words, you want to be paid (instead of paying for) to be a Beta tester? :)
    • You're acting as if this is the first time in history that a console's hardware has been tweaked. Sony were constantly improving the PS1 and PS2 (eg. the CPU and video processor were combined into one chip), there's a myriad of variations of the Saturn, the Megadrive went through three redesigns etc. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the 360 would undergo the same process.
    • Happens all the time in the PC world. Technology improves, and you get better hardware at the same price. Or maybe the manufacturer cuts prices because the competition has better stuff to offer than last year.

      Why should consoles be different?
    • "Hopefully MS again recognizes its hardcore fans who acquired the 360 early in the production cycle will expect some sort of compensation for their willingness to purchase a console with apparent heat/performance issues."

      They already have. You get to play the 360 for an extra year.
  • by blueZhift (652272) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:16PM (#15175507) Homepage Journal
    All of the beta test...err customers should take a bow! This happens all of the time now, but I'm sure Microsoft knew that heat could be a problem, but you never really know how much of a problem it's going to be until a couple of million units hit the streets. The Playstations had heat problems early on too. So everyone take a bow, soon we'll hear less about overheating Xbox 360s. Hopefully they'll be able to reduce the size of the power brick too, eventually. In any case, I'm glad to see that they are taking steps to improve the product.
    • It always kills me to remember the crazy setup my buddy had for his original PlayStation. There were two encyclopedia's under each side. One side was 'S' and 'N'. The other side was 'A' and 'Y-Z'. This way there was air flow in the upward direction. A fan was later implemented. Guess it just doesn't occur to designers that heat rises.
  • Or it could actually be a bit faster (maybe 5-10%). Microsoft would have to remind the deveopers to target the original model (not that they should need the reminder, there are already millions of them out there), but for people who buy the newer system they may not get some of the minor slowdowns on some games that people with older systems report.

    Mostly, I think it'll just run cooler and put less load on the power brick though, which is a good thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:17PM (#15175522)
    The overheating defects in the 360 are:

    1) The faulty powersupply design

    2) The ATI graphics card overheating

    The CPU in the 360 is pretty much the only thing in the system that is not showing signs of defects or heat problems.

    This should help Microsoft to reduce the manufacturing cost of the system a bit. However, Microsoft needs to get a handle on the massive defects problems like yesterday if they want to have anyone still interested in the system by the time this updated CPU is ready to go.

  • Historical (Score:4, Informative)

    by ClamIAm (926466) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:17PM (#15175523)
    I just thought I'd point out that a lot of consoles have had this happen. The PS2 has gone through a bunch of revisions, and I remember reading that when Nintendo redesigned the Super NES, part of the reason was to reduce the number of chips they had to put into it.
    • "I just thought I'd point out that a lot of consoles have had this happen. The PS2 has gone through a bunch of revisions, and I remember reading that when Nintendo redesigned the Super NES, part of the reason was to reduce the number of chips they had to put into it."

      I was a video game salesman back in 95/96. The original PSOnes frequently went defective not long after the 90 day warranty, usually resulting in skipping etc. On top of that, there was a trick that involved booting the PSOne with the door op
      • I'm starting to get the picture that putting out a mass-market game console is really really hard.

        I remember reading something before the US launch of the PS2 (it may have been EGM). The reporter was in a warehouse where all the launch-day machines were sitting, waiting to be shipped out. He said something like "I dunno if the logistics of moving all these machines is a bigger job than launching the space shuttle, but it's close".

  • I think some of you have been blinded by the fact the article mentions Microsoft, i.e. we must have a go at them! This is what console manufacturers do to reduce costs of their systems. How do you think Sony made the PSTwo, they sure as hell didn't put the original processor in it.
    • Yes but usually these revisions don't come until years later. Nintendo does exactly one revision of their home consoles, though considering what they did with the GBA and DS that might change with the Revolution.
      • Yes but usually these revisions don't come until years later.

        The 360 was launched in 2005, and they're talking about a new hardware revision to come in 2007. That doesn't qualify?

        Nintendo does exactly one revision of their home consoles

        The initial release of the 8-bit Famicom in Japan was so plagued with hardware problems that Nintendo actually had to recall them for repairs. The second Famicom model fared much better. Then, another revision came with the front-loading NES released in the United States a
      • Yes but usually these revisions don't come until years later.

        The old-shaped PS2 went through some twelve revisions, and the new model has already had at least three versions. Other consoles have also undergone a significant number of revisions.

        Nintendo does exactly one revision of their home consoles

        There's three versions of the Gamecube: the original, one without the second expansion port and one with both the expansion port and digital A/V-out removed.

  • Changing specs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerf (17166) on Friday April 21, 2006 @02:28PM (#15175648) Journal
    Some people have commented negatively about a change in specs in the middle of the production run. There's prior art for this, though: apparently the Playstation 2 [wikipedia.org] has two processor speeds, 294MHz and 299MHz.

    The fact that this has had so little impact that nobody realizes it has already happened speaks to the fact that it can be done without a whole lot of problems.

    The days of being able to count cycles and depend on the timing that way are long gone anyhow. Console games need to use timers and handle the fact that sometimes the game will bog down anyhow. Tweaking the clock speed a little is something that everything ought to be able to handle in stride, or they're going to have big problems as soon as there's one too many polygons on the screen.

    On the topic of changing specs mid-stream, it has occurred to me to wonder if Nintendo's HD solution for the Revolution will be to release an HD-capable Revolution about two years after the initial release. 3D games up-sample pretty well, even if the first-gen games won't look quite as good as dedicated HD games, but on that note, even XBox 360 games need to work at SD, as well. They'll be able to still release that console at most likely the original price-point, and they'll be selling into a market where more people have HD displays than today. It'll be tricky, but since they could design the graphics card with the explicit purpose of having the same capabilities as the old one, just with the ability to do all the old stuff in HD in the same amount of time, it should be doable.

    If this is their plan, they may be right; jamming all that expensive hardware into the PS3 and the XBox 360 may not be cost effective if you lock out a lot of people who would otherwise have purchased one.
  • You remember the old days of games? When processor speeds changed rarely and the climb of generations was a slow one?

    Back then, game developers often clocked their games to the CPU speed. You could more or less rely on it. By the time the processor speed outmatched the routines you had to take care of "too fast" models, your game was outdated anyway.

    Anyone who tried to run Wing Commander on a 486 or faster knows the result.

    Now, game devs for PCs have wised up. They use time as the measurement now to calcula
    • Now, game devs for PCs have wised up. They use time as the measurement now to calculate how "fast" the game may run. I'm not sure if devs for console games, who (at least until now) could rely on a fairly uniform platform, take that into account.

      Vertical retrace happens at 60 Hz on all NTSC models of the NES, the Super NES, the N64, the GameCube, and the Nintendo Revolution, and in all models of Game Boy or Nintendo DS system in all regions. Console games have based their timing on vertical retrace sinc

    • You remember the old days of games? When processor speeds changed rarely and the climb of generations was a slow one?

      Generations haven't really climbed any faster than they ever have: its been a steady 5-6 year gap between significant hardware jumps.

      Atari 2600- 1977

      NES- 1983 (japan) 1984 US

      Genesis- 1988 (japan) 1989 US

      Jaguar- 1993 (ok, so the jag tanked HARD, but it WAS a 32/64 bit system)

      DC- 1998 (japan) 1999 US

      360- 2005 (worldwide)

      • he was talking more about computer generations. When for a long time, a 486/66 was the fastest you could get. Game developers took that in stride, and tied the game speed to the clock speed. With consoles, you still can do that, for the most part. Every PS2 in the world runs at the same clock speed, and developers know that. Why tie "timed" events to a time-of-day, when the system clock speed remains constant?

        Even every 360 in the world right now has the same feature. But when this new "faster" chip c
    • It's been a long time since games relied on processor speeds for timing. Consoles typically use the video hardware vertical sync. Poorly written region conversions don't compensate for the 50Hz/60Hz difference between PAL and NTSC, but the majority do.
  • Great... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dalmiroy2k (768278)
    But how about *integrated* HD-DVD player and a smaller power supply, all for the same $400?
    That would be some update!
  • by Vesuvias (584893) on Friday April 21, 2006 @03:47PM (#15176392)
    I bought a 360 in March and I can honestly say that it is one of the best 400$ entertainment decisions I have made in a while. Say what you want, it is a blast. It's not perfect but it is well worth the money.

    Xbox Live Marketplace provides a ton of demos and free stuff, the Achevement system is addictive (but meaningless like it should be), worldwide and friends sorted leaderboards are great (expecially for those live arcade titles), and the games are are a blast. Oblivion is one of the best games I have played in years.

    I am not a fanboy but I certianly like my xbox enough to call myself a fan. If the PS3 and Revolution are this much fun I will buy those systems too, in a heart beat!

    Hell a high end PC graphics card costs about as much as a 360 (and you will need a decent one to run Oblivion).

    If MS wants to make the thing cooler and cheaper in the next year why do I care? I have my gaming goodness right now and I am happy.

    Ves
  • What's with all the gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands? This happens all the time in the console world. The Playstation purchased on launch day in 1995 was not the same beast as the Playstation bought in 1999. Chip consolidation and improved manufacturing techniques let Sony lower the price on the Playstation as they put the hardware through different revisions. But you wouldn't know if if you didn't read the model numbers.

    Similarly, Nintendo has done this with the GameCube, dropping the compo

  • Of course new 360s using a shrunk CPU will have the same clock speed as the current model.

    Console manufacturers refactor hardware all the time. They do it to make the hardware better, cheaper, slimmer, cooler but NOT faster. Oh you thought the GBA, GBA Micro, GBA SP and the DS's GBA support were identical? Ditto the original PS2 vs the slim model? The Playstation vs. PSOne?

    Don't you guys remember what consoles are? It's bad enough that both Sony and Microsoft have gone down the dark path of firmware an

    • Actually, during the lifespan of the PS1 a slightly faster and better graphics chip was put into the PS1, also featuring better gouraud shading. For some reason this isn't common knoweledge, I can only assume it's because Sony didn't hype this feature for fear of annoying existing PS1 owners and potentially making people think they would have to upgrade.

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