Microsoft reportedly working on Kinect set top box

A few days ago, we reported that Microsoft has apparently suspended its plans for its own subscription video service, which would have offered TV shows and movies online and via Xbox. Now, it’s emerged that the company has also been working on a set-top box that includes Kinect features, and offers access to video and music services as well as games and apps.

According to The Daily, the new device is designed as an entertainment-focused media centre in its own right, rather than an add-on to an Xbox 360; users would therefore not need to own a console in order to use it. Referred to by three codenames – ‘Live Xbox’, ‘Kinect Box’ and ‘Kinect HD’ – it’s claimed that Microsoft is still continuing development of the device, despite putting on hold its plans for its video service.

The Kinect Box is “a low-profile version of the Kinect with a larger base”, and with an emphasis on minimizing clutter and complexity, it reportedly has a single cable that “branches out to HDMI, power and USB”. Additional ports, such as those for optical audio connections, haven’t yet been decided upon.

The integration of Kinect means that gesture and voice interaction are the key differentiators here, while it’s also claimed that the Xbox Companion app, recently released on Windows Phone, will also be a control option, in much the same way that content can currently be searched for using the app on the phone, and then played via the Xbox on a TV.

As for availability of this new device, its release was apparently “originally scheduled for early 2012”, but has since been pushed back, but The Daily suggests that it will arrive before the new Xbox console arrives, with a price point of around $150.

Considering the increasing focus on Xbox as an entertainment hub, rather than just a games console – with the latest dashboard update exposing more video content, in particular – this seems like a logical progression for the direction in which Microsoft has been nudging the Xbox brand, as it works to establish a broader presence in the living room.

Google has been working harder on pushing its products on to web-connected TVs in recent months, and the industry is convinced that a revolutionary Apple TV product – likely infused with Siri voice controls – will arrive in the near future.

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