What is The X Factor?

Simon Cowell wants to reassure fans that although he’s leaving American Idol after its 9th season this year, he isn’t leaving their living rooms.

“Don’t worry,” Cowell told PEOPLE after his announcement at a Television Critics Association press conference in Pasadena, Calif., that season 9, which premieres Tuesday (8 p.m. EST) on FOX, will be his last as anAmerican Idol judge. “I’m still going to be around, just doing a different show.”

That show is The X Factor, a talent competition Cowell created in 2004 in the U.K. and expects to bring to FOX in the fall of 2011. Peter Rice,chairman of FOX, said, “If we can have a show that can replicate the power of Idol in the fall, [that's] a big reward for us.”

How Is The X Factor Different From American Idol?
Both The X Factor and American Idol hold public auditions and air highlights of the good and bad performances. In last year’s X Factor, though, the auditions were held before a live audience. One key difference between the shows is that The X Factor accepts groups and duos in the competition; the show also takes contestants age 16 and over with no upper limit, while American Idol caps the age at 28.

“I don’t like rules,” Cowell said. “A lot of people over the years like to audition for Idol but were too old. I listened to that. Susan Boyle is the reason why I like to do shows without age. Without a show like [Britain's Got Talent], she would never have landed a recording contract and that’s what these shows can do … That’s why record labels are out of touch. It’s supposed to be David versus Goliath. That’s what I like about the format. Right now, who has the biggest X-factor in the world? Lady Gaga. [I would] love to find someone like that.”

Hollywood Round vs. Boot Camp: On American Idol, contestants who get a “golden ticket” to Hollywood then sing in groups or solos with some assistance from a vocal coach to further impress the judges, who then whittle them down to a top 24. The public then votes after watching the 24 perform and eventually settle on a top 12.

On The X Factor, the contestants who survive the first auditions are divided into groups and handed over to the judges, who then become their mentors. They are taken to different houses to study and train with their respective judge. After a few more cuts, boot camp ends with 12 acts ready to compete for the votes from viewers at home.

While both shows reward the victor with a recording contract and monetary prize based on a public vote, the judging along the way for The X Factor takes on a personal bent because the judges have worked so closely with the contestants and will defend their charges.

Cowell, however, believes there is room for both formats. Remarking on his departure from Idol, he says, ” It will be fine. It’s time and it’s fine. And American Idol will go on.”

Looking Toward the Future of X’s and Idols
One possible throwback to Cowell’s Idol days could include the return of Paula Abdul, who was the first judge to leave the show last year. “I adore Paula,” Cowell said. “No matter what happens, I’ll be working with her in the future. You just have to watch.”

As for reaction from current judges, Kara DioGuardi said on the radio show Valentine in the Morning, “I was a fan before I was on the show and he will be really missed.”

New Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres will poke fun at Cowell’s announcement and other changes in the TV landscape on her talk show this week. “He announced he’s leaving on my first day,” she jokes. “I’m trying not to take it personally. But seriously, I am going to be very, very sad to see him go, because I think he’s made the show what it is. He’s a huge part of that show but he wanted a change. I wish him all the luck in the world hosting The Tonight Show.”– Cynthia Wang and Susan Young

Tell us: Are you excited for The X Factor to come to America?