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According to those familiar with such matters, Redmond-based Microsoft will be rolling out two variations of its next-gen Xbox – a premium unit for the hardcore gamers, and a more entry-level stripped-down devices containing the bare essentials.

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Currently, a similar implementation is already in place, with the superior 250GB model aimed at the power users, and the 4GB device allowing users to enjoy the basics. The next-gen models, however, will be even farther away from each other in terms of specs when compared with the present line-up.

So far, having two consoles has worked well, and could to a degree be one of the reasons why the 360 is now favored over Sony’s PlayStation 3 (Although the lengthy downtime of the PlayStation Network earlier this year due to hacking will certainly have helped the Microsoft cause).

The stripped down console will reportedly be made as cheaply as possible, and will be positioned similarly to a set-top box. From that, it will be marketed as a hub for all entertainment – with Netflix amongst others all said to be taking part in what is being touted as “a Kinect-themed portal.”

Those who require a more gaming-centric environment would, for a higher price (possibly quite a deal higher), would be able to enjoy the all-singing, all-dancing full-blown 360 replacement, with an optical drive as well as the usual large helping of HDD space. The high-end build would also be more capable graphically, and, unlike the cheaper model, be backwards-compatible.

Backwards compatibility is only an issue for the first 18 months of a new console, when games are scarce. How many of you fire up your console to play PS2, PSX or original Xbox games?

Evidence of Microsoft’s plans to bring a more rounded entertainment experience have already surfaced with recent Dashboard updates, and the next update on December 6th will play host to multiple streaming TV and movie options.

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As well as the highly-publicized acquisition of Skype back in May, the software maker has also purchased VideoSurf, a video searching outfit which will no doubt be integrated into Bing, and also foreshadows the wider entertainment-based notion.

Whatever the case, we’re sure looking forward to seeing whether the next Xbox manages to build on the success of the 360!

(via Kotaku)

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