Some are calling it a "logical extension of seven-inch SmartGlass", but according to sources at Microsoft (News - Alert), there are plans already in the works to release a small tablet with gaming exclusively in mind, dubbed the "Xbox Surface". That name may change between now and the release--if there even is one--but the concept is enough to raise some eyebrows.
The device itself, meanwhile--which was slated to make an early reveal back at the last E3--is said to be, as mentioned, a seven-inch tablet with a specific focus on Xbox gaming, powered by an ARM chipset and given high-bandwidth memory and a "custom Windows kernel", though there is an outside chance for an Intel (News - Alert) SoC--System on a Chip--to find its way into the mix.
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While the official word out of Microsoft is silent--a spokesperson formally refused to comment on rumors and speculation--there is word that Microsoft recently put several buildings housing Xbox-related products on their Silicon Valley campus into lockdown, minimizing access for employees and fueling a spate of rumors.
As for the frequently-discussed Xbox 720, it's being said that the tablet will make its appearance before the system shows up--which makes some sense as Microsoft would likely hold off on the system launch until closer to Christmas--meaning that a schedule may have revealed itself. With the next E3 only eight months away, the tablet might be ready for launch by the end of E3 and the new system held toward Christmas, especially if the two are designed to work together.
This in turn would also make a note of sense given Microsoft's recent aspirations to turn the Xbox into a full-service entertainment package, as a tablet could be used very easily to add remote control functions to the Xbox's entertainment features like Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert) Plus connectivity, or incorporate extra features like IMDB access while a movie is playing. Some have speculated that the tablet in question might also incorporate basic tablet functions like messaging and Web surfing, so seeing that incorporated with Microsoft gameplay could make a very interesting overall experience.
Naturally, this is all still largely speculative, but it makes a note of sense given events in the larger world and previous launch history. The Xbox 360 is an aging hardware, and with Nintendo about to run riot with its own system release for Christmas, Microsoft needs to get a fresh horse in the race before Big N runs away with the triple crown. 2013 could prove to be a very interesting year in gaming indeed.
Edited by Brooke Neuman