It's pretty obvious that Microsoft and Sony have started work on their next generation gaming consoles, but Microsoft might have more than just the next Xbox up its sleeve. According to a new report from The Verge, Microsoft is planning to launch a set-top box of its own at some point next year. By making such a device and launching some kind of Xbox TV service alongside its next-gen console, it could potentially allow Microsoft to get its products in more living rooms than ever before, so it's pretty easy to see the appeal of such a strategy.
This set-top box would obviously be a media streaming device meant to challenge the likes of Apple TV and Roku, but Microsoft is also developing this box with gaming in mind. You won't be able to play full blown console games on it of course, but The Verge's sources say that Microsoft is looking to have casual games on its box. Perhaps we'll see the company launch something like Xbox Live made specifically for this device?
The box will also be running Windows 8, and will make use of a chipset that allows it to boot up and a resume from sleep quickly. Given the fact that Microsoft has been trying to turn the Xbox 360 into a media hub rather than a simple games console, the jump to a set-top box isn't that hard to make. Things get even more interesting, though, when we hear the claim that Microsoft may also be planning to introduce a phone that's capable of full Xbox Live functionality. Here's what Microsoft said when questioned about this rumor:
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. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention.
That isn't the typical "we don't comment on rumors or speculation" we're used to hearing, so Microsoft may indeed be planning something along these lines. We should find out if it is soon enough, as the sources claim that Microsoft will reveal its set-top box next year, releasing it before the holiday season. Would you pick up an Xbox-branded set-top box, or will you be going all out and picking up Microsoft's next-gen console?