Microsoft Announces Xbox 360 Elite

As rumored last week, Microsoft officially announced at midnight on Wednesday a brand new version – or SKU – for Xbox 360, called Xbox 360 Elite.

Xbox 360 Elite comes in one color: black. Likewise, the controller and Xbox Live headset included in the package are black as well. The Elite SKU will be priced at $479.99, come with a 120GB HDD, an HDMI port and will be available on in North America and Canada on Sunday, April 29, 2007.

This new version of Xbox 360 is made up of the same inside parts as launch Xbox 360s, meaning it features the same processor, DVD drive, as well as all other internal guts of the original Xbox 360 launched in 2005.

“And for a unit that’s got twice the hard drive storage space as the PS3, comes with an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable and a headset, it’s still $120 cheaper than the $599.99 high-end PlayStation 3,” said Albert Penello, Microsoft’s director of global platform marketing.

In addition to the announcement of the Xbox 360 Elite, Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it will be shipping a standalone version of the 120GB hard drive, which will retail for $179.99. The standalone HDD comes with software for the drive and a transfer cable, which regular Xbox 360 owners can use to move their current data to the 120GB HDD.

To usher in the new black Xbox 360, Microsoft is also releasing black versions of the Xbox 360 wireless controller ($49.99), the Play and Charge Kit ($19.99) and the rechargeable battery pack ($11.99) on April 29.

“The Elite is not a limited edition. It’s permanent. And we will not replace any sku,” Penello explained when referring to the flurry of rumors preceeding the official announcement. “We now have three SKUs and we predict the primary seller will continue to be the Pro system.”

Penello also told in an interview on Wednesday that future Xbox 360 software will be developed with the original 20GB 360 model in mind, not the Elite version, meaning early adopters and current Xbox 360 owners need not worry about ever “having to upgrade.”