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Accompanying the talk and speculation of the next-gen, "Xbox 720" games console, the prospect of a separate, entertainment-focused entity has also stuck around. With the current Xbox 360 having morphed from an out-and-out gaming portal to an all-round device for music, movies and apps as well as your favorite games, it’s looking increasingly as though Microsoft plans to make a more sustained assault on the television market in the near future. In fact, a report over at TheVerge states, in no uncertain terms, that Microsoft is building a set-top box, and it’ll rival the likes of Apple TV when eventually unveiled next year.

With gamers often categorized into two main denominations – the "casual," Angry Birds-playing, SingStar-loving gamer, and the "hardcore," doesn’t-leave-the-house-except-to-queue-for-the-next-Call-of-Duty gamer, Xbox plans to target the former with this low-cost Xbox alternative. It will likely be low-powered, and offer a gaming experience rarely exceeding the arcade level, but it will provide an alternative for those not so fussed about high-end titles such as CoD, Halo and Assassin’s Creed.

The two-SKU format will, continues TheVerge report, be showcased at some point in 2013, and in terms of retail, it should be available to consumers in time for the lucrative holiday season. There will, as you may expect, be support for Windows 8, and although the hardware details don’t appear to have been fully decided, it will probably pack an "always on" chipset to enable fast boot times.

Microsoft doesn’t want to limit itself by building the core frameworks of Xbox around one console. By building a set-top box running on less powerful hardware and incorporating Windows 8, the Redmond outfit is outlining its already apparent intentions to broaden the horizons of Xbox as a whole, and the Verge report also suggests this tactic could eventually transcend into a smartphone capable of running Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE services.

Xbox Home

In an official statement, Microsoft outlines its continued intention to "defy the lifecycle convention," and it’s something the software maker has certainly achieved with its current console. Without the likes of Kinect, the Xbox 360 would probably still be one for gaming enthusiasts, but with a set-top box now looking a real likelihood, the new wave of Xbox users can now also look forward to a future product.

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