One of the more controversial rumors surrounding the next Xbox is that it would require an always online Internet connection. Some rumors even said that the next Xbox can only remain offline for three minutes before interrupting a game to troubleshoot the connection. Those concerned will be happy to know then that Microsoft won't require an always online connection, at least for some activities, in the next Xbox.
Ars Technica got its hands on an internal Microsoft email that lays out its policy regarding Internet connections on the next Xbox:
"Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet. There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
It's pointed out that the above email seemingly confirms that the next Xbox will route through a set-top box to deliver an Xbox-branded TV experience to consumers. It's good then that Microsoft won't be forcing any kind of online connectivity on those who just want to watch TV.
Going back to games, what does this mean for all those rumors of DRM and blocking used games? Well, the next Xbox could still incorporate DRM that's similar to what many PC games now do. The console would use an Internet connection for a one-time activation, and then the game could be played offline afterwards. It could also be used to block used games from being played on the system so there is still some concern there.
That being said, the next Xbox will at least be partially consumer friendly. That's only a good thing as it looked like Microsoft was readying to shoot itself in the foot in the upcoming generation if it were to move ahead with an always online DRM scheme.
We'll find out more about the next Xbox, and hopefully more clarification regarding any DRM, at a dedicated event on May 21.