Back in 2005, before Microsoft's Next Generation console was released, one of its Executives suggested that their new console had a locked feature that would be unlocked by a software update.
Once the Xbox 360 was released, Anandtech reviewed it and found this "mystery chip", which purpose was indeed a mystery even for them, and they received no reply about it from Microsoft.
In Spring 2006, the Redmond Giant released the eagerly awaited Dashboard Update featuring 1080p upscaling, yet it wasn't clear how the Xbox 360 did this. Today the answer has finally been given, and it even has a name. "Ana" is the mystery chip that allows you to play games like Gears of War in 1080p.
Here's a snippet of the Anadtech article:
"We call it Ana. This is the scaling chip that's in the 360," he [Scott Henson] tells me.
It's odd to see it-a tiny little chip-but this may be one of the secret weapons the 360 has against the PS3. The PS3 has no internal hardware scaler, which means games that are 720p native can only be shown in 720p or 480p; there is no scaling up to 1080p or 1080i. This causes people with older HDTVs to have issues with the available resolutions, and keeps them from playing the games in anything but 480p. It's a vexing problem for a system that's supposed to be HD, and this issue is one of the most challenging that Sony faces. I ask the Microsoft guys how important it was for them to include a scaler in the 360.
"It was a critical design decision; we wanted the 360 to be high-definition, not just 1080p or some other standard. That's why we included component cables in the box; there is no HDTV that doesn't have a component in," said Greenberg.
They assume that Sony didn't include a hardware scaler to keep costs down, but get a little cagey when I ask how much it costs to put Ana into the 360. "This isn't a $1,000 scaler," Henson says, "but it's a good one."
It was apparently designed at the same time as the GPU, and the effortless scaling with different televisions was something that was important from the early design stages of the system. I ask if they think this is something that Sony can fix in software.