WARNING: my opinions, not facts from WD…
Yes, releasing something before the December holiday season is always good for sales.
But the fact is that the current Sigma chipset is stretched pretty thin, in terms of maxing out its capabilities – I’m fairly sure most of the added goodies you’re looking for would need a new chip altogether.
Sigma was to have a new chip earlier this year that was functionally identical to the premium processor found in some other brands of media player (slightly different family of chips), but used less power and had a higher speed. With all the investment WD has put into designing for the 8630 and 8650 lines, I can’t see them immediately switching to a different processor family and essentially starting from scratch, whether the new chip is currently available or not.
What I’d see as far more likely, if WD is going to start from scratch, would be for WD to move to the 8900-series of chips from Sigma, which support 3D and have all sorts of image-processing goodies. Based on the Sigma stuff I’ve seen, a player built around an 8910 would be stellar (and there are all kinds of people around the internet asking when 8910-based players are going to start shipping – from any manufacturer – people are very anxious to see the new toys this chip can drive). Sigma had some delays, though. Other than a few pre-production prototypes, the 8910 doesn’t exist yet. They were originally planning to start shipping the chips out to manufacturers this fall, but they’ve run into delays and now the planned release date is first quarter 2012. So, if WD has any plans to build a “next-gen” super media player around the premium 8910, it won’t be this year.
But, as Tony points out… whatever WD decides to do, we won’t know about it until it hits the BestBuy warehouses. (Usually a week before WD officially announces it publicly ).