Word on the street is that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is building a gaming tablet to compliment the Xbox. Specs were initially leaked in June, but sources have confirmed with The Verge that the final version is being worked on.
The so-called “Xbox Surface” will supposedly be 7 inches, and run a custom Windows kernel designed specifically for gaming, and not much else. The news comes following the release of the fourth installment of the Halo series, which hit shelves on election day. Rumors have also surfaced surrounding an “Xbox 720,” the obvious next generation of the Xbox 360.
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The Xbox 720 boasts enough features that there is no need for any of the other hardware associated with an entertainment system, such as DVD players, DVRs, and music equipment. Not content with replacing the home theater, gaming consoles are quickly becoming as entirely robust as personal computers. Consoles can be used to access social media, apps, and the Internet.
Keeping with the trend, gaming companies have been slowly separating their games from specific hardware for years. Exclusive access to titles by one console or another is increasingly a thing of the past. Successful games can be played on any number of platforms, with titles playable on any number of devices with only minor differences.
In many ways, this echos the ecosystem approach of companies like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which are trying give consumers access to one, seamless experience through any device. The Xbox Surface and Xbox 720 fit right into the scheme as imagined by Microsoft through Windows 8.
Meanwhile, Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 3 has been granted a certificate of quality from a Chinese safety standards body. China banned console machines in 2000 over concerns that gaming would be harmful to the youth. While the strategy hasn’t totally worked — China has a booming PC gaming industry, and the country is famous for gray market access to anything, including consoles — sophisticated consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox are a rare thing.
The ongoing transition of gaming consoles into robust computing devices is likely to lower the barrier of entry to the country. It won’t be a difficult task to pitch the Xbox 720 as device that does so much more than run games that it no longer fits into the “gaming console” category.
If that’s the case, then Microsoft and Sony may see a huge market for them open up in China.