It makes one wonder why Microsoft made this change behind the scenes.
There’s a wild rumor right now about Xbox hardware, that we may just get confirmation this week.
This rumor comes from two people, who presumably have different sources. Now, that doesn’t always mean that the rumor is true, but it does lend more credence than if only one person said so.
Starting sequentially, we have MAGG speaking in the XNC podcast last week. MAGG claims that Microsoft is working on two SKUs of the Xbox. One will be the full sized, full retail cost console that we are used to. The other will be a hybrid console, a portable that can be docked to output to a screen.
The hybrid console will be able to play Xbox games natively, and it will have a touch screen. It is supposed to be cheaper than the full sized Xbox, and most importantly, it is being produced by the Surface team.
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Later on, in an episode of the XboxEra podcast, Shpeshal Nick mentioned MAGG when he corroborated the rumors, but not all the same details. What Nick can confirm on his own is that the Surface Team was assigned to work on the next Xbox. In specific, Nick says that Microsoft reassigned the project away from the Xbox hardware team headed by Jason Ronald, VP of Xbox gaming devices and ecosystem.
While the rumors are very similar, we do have to emphasize how different they are. MAGG has a lot more information on Microsoft’s hybrid console, which Nick may hesitate to corroborate because he couldn’t verify them on his own end.
On the other hand, MAGG doesn’t seem to have any information on the Xbox hardware team being taken off the project for the next generation of Xbox consoles. We will have to take each rumor on their own, but there’s one particular detail from Nick’s rumor that’s interesting.
Microsoft has, up until now, resisted the idea of having the Surface and Xbox team work together on hardware. The Surface product line is newer, but the team behind it is older. Founded and headed by Panos Panay, Surface and Devices had spent many years producing Microsoft’s mice and keyboards, as well as their pre-Xbox foray into PC game controllers with the SideWinder brand. This team also included some members who worked on Office, and that informed how they made up the UI and other design elements of Surface products.
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If this rumor is true, Microsoft may have merged their Surface and Xbox hardware division into one. Or, the company may be testing out if this could be good for them.
In any case, the Surface team may have better specializations to qualify them to design an Xbox handheld. In particular, they have experience making computer with battery in mind, to balance out performance and efficiency concerns. They may have some people working on the more Xbox specific side of the device, such as the controls.
It’s such a radical departure for Microsoft that it would be remarkable if this turned out to be true to any degree. Since Microsoft is planning a business update this week, we may find out it is true soon enough.