Talking tech since 2003

Hot on the heels of the newest Apple television prediction, we now have more news to share from the front of the war for your living room. This time, the company at the center is Microsoft. According to “multiple sources” of The Verge, Microsoft plans to introduce a set-top box alongside its next generation Xbox console, which is reported to be launching in 2013. This box will be more scaled down than its dedicated console brother, opting to use a chipset that provides an “instant on” experience, much like the Apple TV, Roku, and other set-top boxes.

By introducing such a product, Microsoft would be making an even stronger play for living room domination than it has already with its Xbox Dashboard updates over the years. The box might be appealing to those who don’t consider themselves heavy gamers, yet still desire the casual gaming and content consumption experiences that an Xbox-branded set-top box would provide. I use the word “might,” because I’m not 100% sold on the idea.

I own an Xbox 360, and personally see no reason why I’d feel compelled to purchase such a device. When Microsoft launches its next-generation console, I’ll surely pick one up, and the Xbox 360 will be relegated to “second-room” status, acting primarily as a streaming media box and a means by which to play older titles. There will certainly be a lot of other people in the same situation as me. I see where Microsoft would want to fill the void for those who don’t already own a 360, but I think the company may be overvaluing its own ecosystem  — at least, in terms of content.

Microsoft’s content partnerships aren’t as strong as Apple’s or Amazon’s, so the company would have to provide a very good reason for consumers to purchase a Microsoft box over an Apple TV, or a Roku, or a Vizio Co-Star. If that selling point is Xbox Live and casual gaming for people who don’t own Xboxes, will that feature really save the day? Xbox Live hasn’t helped Windows Phone becoming a roaring success, after all. I suppose we won’t really know for sure until we learn more about the device; whether or not it actually exists, what it’s packing internally, and what kind of features it will bring in terms of software and services.

In the meantime, here’s an idea: why doesn’t Microsoft just sell the Xbox 360 at a really cheap price once it releases its new console? That would make the set-top box market interesting.

Or maybe Microsoft could release a TV.

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