Let's face it, you don't have to be part of the team that put Curiosity on Mars to figure out that Microsoft is working on the Xbox 720. The company is having great success with its current console and the real question is when, not if, the next generation will come out. It's a delicate balancing act for Microsoft. They don't want to put a damper on sales of the Xbox 360 by announcing Xbox 720 too early, but they have to announce it early enough to generate a healthy amount of buzz so the new console is a hot ticket when it hits store shelves.
For now, Microsoft still isn't speaking about the next generation officially, but we're starting to see possible cracks in the secrecy armor. Last week Brian Hall, General Manager of Microsoft's Windows Live unit appeared on the VergeCast to talk about Microsoft's relaunch of Hotmail, Outlook.com. During the conversation Hall mentions "the new Xbox" in the same sentence as Windows 8, the new Office and several other items in the 'new wave of products' that they wanted Outlook.com to launch with.
That got gamer's attention, but a Microsoft spokesperson followed up saying Hall was referring to the fall Dashboard update for the existing Xbox 360, which should include Xbox Music and Xbox SmartGlass. (See The Verge's clarification post.)
It'd be fun to dismiss the clarification as spin but really the explanation fits pretty well, given that all the other items in 'the new wave of products' are launching this fall and we know we're not getting an Xbox 720 that soon.
OK so with that crack debunked, gamers went back to waiting.
Yesterday they got another tidbit. A help wanted ad showed up on Microsoft's Careers site that includes this passage:
Over the next eighteen months Microsoft will release new versions of all of our most significant products including Windows (Client, Server, Phone and Azure), Office and Xbox, along with completely new offerings like Microsoft Surface. This wave of product launches will define the course of the company for years to come and thus provides an unprecedented opportunity for us to refresh and evolve our strategic brands.
So does this ad reference the Xbox 720 or is this just more talk about the Xbox 360 dashboard updates. The term "product launch" and the 18 months figure suggests the former, given that most of the other products listed are coming out much sooner and I'm not sure you could call a dashboard update a product launch.
And of course 18 months means holiday 2013, which is when most of us who chase Xbox 720 rumors and speculation expect the Xbox 720 to launch.
When is Microsoft going to go public with the new hardware? My best guess is that we won't hear anything official until next spring — probably at Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference in early June.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.