Microsoft is building an Xbox set-top box.
Multiple sources familiar with Redmond's plans have confirmed to The Verge that the company plans to introduce a low-cost alternative to its Xbox console,
designed to provide access to core entertainment services. The move will allow Microsoft to further increase its presence in the living room, providing consumers with a choice between a set-top box or a full next-generation Xbox console.
We're told that the set-top box is part of a two-SKU strategy for Microsoft's next-generation of Xbox hardware that will be unveiled in 2013, with a release date ahead of the holiday shopping season. The device will run on the core components of Windows 8 and support casual gaming titles rather than full Xbox games typically found on a dedicated console.
Although hardware specifications aren't fully locked down, we understand Microsoft will use a chipset to enable an "always on" device that boots quickly and resumes to provide near-instant access to TV and entertainment services.
Microsoft's Xbox set-top box work is said to be part of a broader effort to ensure its core architecture for the next-generation Xbox is scalable enough to be put together to run on a number of devices. We understand that the company could opt to combine its core system for the next Xbox with a phone stack to deliver a phone capable of running a full version of Microsoft's Xbox Live services.
It has also investigated providing this functionality to TV OEMs, who could include the core services as part of a licensed Xbox television set.
We reached out to Microsoft for comment on its Xbox set-top box plans and the company issued the following statement:
"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."