Before the Xbox 720, there will be the Xbox Lite

There's a new Xbox rumor making the rounds, but I'm a little hesitant to talk about it because it's all coming from one individual, and an individual who admits to 'leaking' false information just to see how it circulates around the blogosphere. And yet, true or not, it outlines an interesting concept.

So let's just add the caveat that this entire post might be fiction/idle speculation, OK?

The rumor, which comes form Reddit user MS Nerd via TechRadar, is that the next gaming hardware coming out of Redmond won't be a next generation Xbox 720, it'll be an Xbox Lite. A stripped down, $100 box intended as a Kinect-enabled media hub that also happens to play Xbox Live Arcade titles. It won't have a hard drive but will presumably have a few gigs of internal memory.

So far, that sounds plausible to me, given how much effort Microsoft has been devoting towards getting streaming media services onto the Xbox 360. Then things start to drift a bit. MS Nerd says the new hardware will be ARM-based and will ship in late 2013, and that it's intended to compete with Apple TV on price (in other words, it'll cost about $100).

I find it unlikely that Microsoft would develop a new hardware architecture for this box, assuming they still want it to play current generation games. Now there've been rumors that the Xbox 720 will be ARM-based, so maybe this is a precursor to the Xbox 720 rather than a sequel to the Xbox 360? Assuming the Xbox 720 is going to be backwards compatible anyway, it might make sense to build an ARM-based Xbox Lite that uses the backwards compatibility routines being developed for the Xbox 720. But at this point we're way out in the weeds of pure conjecture, so let's reel things back in.

It seems to me that by late 2013 Microsoft will be able to sell a box based on the current Xbox 360 for $100 (an Xbox 360 Arcade System currently retails for $200) without switching to a new architecture. (The Xbox Lite would not include Kinect; that's a separate purchase.) And, a set-top box version of the Xbox 360 sounds like a plausible piece of hardware as Microsoft continues to push into the space currently occupied by hardware like the Apple TV and Roku Streaming Player.

That much seems plausible but again, this is all coming from someone who said of his Reddit account:

I said before that this is also a social experiment. It has been very illuminating to observe how a story spreads among the media & how substandard the process of verifying information is. Most of all, I have been amazed by how easily the media & the enthusiast public ignore any attempt at ascertaining the authenticity of sources.As an example, I recently wrote an Xbox-related paragraph at the end of one of my Windows Phone posts. The Windows Phone stuff was 90% true; the Xbox info was at best 50% true. Yet, those 3 or 4 lines got passed around on Twitter so rapidly, I could hardly believe my eyes. The craziest thing happened after that: sites like Kotaku & G4 picked it up and reported it.

So the 50% truth I'm taking from today's rumor is that Microsoft will bring a small form-factor, $100 Xbox to market in 2013. It'll have the same basic architecture as the current Xbox 360, just reduced in size, and it'll be designed and marketed primarily as a streaming media hub.


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.

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