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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

November 6, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Xbox Surface: Microsoft chasing Wii U with next console?

Rumors of an Xbox Surface tablet device are surfacing again today, with The Verge hearing from several sources that Microsoft’s making progress on a 7-inch tablet device.

But I’ll bet this isn’t just another challenger to the 7-inch Kindle and Nexus tablets and the iPad Mini.

Instead, it looks more like the controller and auxiliary display for the next Xbox.

That would mean that Microsoft’s following the path of Nintendo’s multiscreen Wii U, which is starting the next console generation off with its launch next week.

The Wii U includes a stationary console plus a wireless controller with a 6.2-inch touchscreen display.

Console game developers are already starting to build titles that take advantage of this sort of display.

Microsoft is now offering the SmartGlass application on phones and tablets as a bridge between touchscreen displays and its current console, but it’s a more complicated approach and doesn’t offer developers a fixed platform.

An Xbox tablet could be sold as part of a console bundle and also as a standalone accessory. Like the Wii U’s tablet, it would work as a super remote control and device for watching video streamed via the console.

A spec sheet that surfaced (sorry) last summer actually lays out Microsoft’s plan for its next console and lists it as the “Xbox Surface.”

The Xbox Surface is described as a “stationary computing device” or console with an auxiliary “tablet computing device” with a 7-inch touchscreen.

The tablet has a “custom IBM engine for scale-out workloads,” according to the spec sheet. Today’s report says the Xbox Surface tablet will have a custom ARM processor, which would be a cousin to the tiny ARM processors used in Microsoft’s Surface Windows RT tablet.

The Surface console has two six-core IBM processors and a custom AMD graphics processor that drives ultra-high-def displays with up to 1440p resolution. Also listed is a 250-gigabyte spinning hard drive. No optical drive is mentioned, so the console won’t howl like a hairdryer and games will be distributed digitally.

Microsoft’s skipping the Consumer Electronics Show in January – where the original Xbox was unveiled in 2001 – so the E3 game conference next June appears to be the likely place for Microsoft to roll out the new hardware.

Comments | Topics: consoles, iPad mini, Microsoft

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