On Monday, Microsoft Corp. offered the first glimpse of an external Hi-Definition DVD (HD-DVD) player to be released for its Xbox 360 gaming console.

The company demonstrated the new device to members of the DVD Forum in Los Angeles, explaining that the unit would be available in time for Christmas.

Kevin Collins, senior program manager at Microsoft, explained that the drive acts like an external CD-ROM, simply feeding data to the Xbox 360, but processing would be done inside the game console. Consequently, the drive will not function as a standalone unit, but promises to be less expensive then consumer HD-DVD players.

All the audio and video processing is done inside the Xbox, Collins said. This gives consumers choice and keeps their cost down, he added.

He also noted that research has shown that a majority of Xbox owners already own high-definition displays. An Xbox drive provides them with all the other equipment they need to watch HD-DVD movies, he said.

Peter Moore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit, told the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) attendees in January that the HD-DVD unit will be used for playing movies only, and not to distribute games.

Our developers are very comfortable with the [Xbox 360's] storage options, Moore said. I think they're utilizing Xbox Live very creatively, and the hard drive, we have a very strong attach rate for the hard drive.

In contrast, Sony's Playstation 3, scheduled to be released in November, will use the competing Blu-Ray disc format internally, as opposed to requiring an external drive, and will support both games and movies.