Microsoft's interest in serving TV and movie content over Xbox Live is a matter of public record, but the firm may have bigger aspirations than simply creating or distributing the content.
According to The Verge, Microsoft "plans to introduce a low-cost alternative to its Xbox console, designed to provide access to core entertainment services". A set-top Xbox TV unit, in short. Due for unveil in 2013, and rumoured to release ahead of Christmas that year, the device will run "casual gaming titles" as opposed to "full Xbox games" plus TV shows and movies.
It'll be an always-on dealio, designed to resume playback instantaneously, and is reportedly part of a broader initiative to make the next generation Xbox architecture scalable enough to run on a number of devices, possibly including a phone which supports a full-featured version of Xbox Live and a built-in Xbox TV set.
Microsoft has declined to comment on but refrained from outright denying the rumour. "Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend the console lifecycle by introducing controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships," reads a statement. "We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention."
A number of recent vacancies on Microsoft Careers attest to the company's interest in conquering the TV space. A software development engineer job listing asks: "do you want to help make Xbox Input 1 on the TV in the living room?"
Microsoft is also in the market for an executive producer at its London Soho studio with "substantial experience in the television industry in a senior or lead role", plus "previous experience commissioning original content or as channel controller", to help with its interactive or "2-way" television schemes. Speaking of 2-way TV, watch this video.
"As part of Microsoft Studios, Soho Productions is pushing the boundaries of Xbox LIVE to bring a new channel of 2-way television experiences to the world," reads a blurb. "Working with leading global entertainment partners, we are creating experiences that are not bound by the traditional definitions of television or gaming. Experiences where watching and participating are inseparable that will delight and enrich the lives of families everywhere."
The idea of multiple versions of the next generation Xbox has been floated before. I rather like the sound of a budget priced, XBLA-only affair, myself. What's your mileage?