British video game trade magazine MCV is reporting that the next Xbox will ditch the optical drive in favor of downloads and solid state memory. It's not known if games will actually be offered on physical media at retail or if the console will exclusively rely on digital distribution. If true, the move would make sense to us — optical media is fast becoming an anachronism in modern hardware and games consoles are often ahead of the curve. The PS Vita dropped its predecessor's optical drive for flash memory, while Microsoft already offers various full Xbox 360 titles for download via its Games on Demand service. MCV also corroborates earlier reports that the new system will launch next year, and we'd certainly expect broadband penetration in the US to be high enough by then for Microsoft to comfortably rely on its audience having access to fast downloads.

It's too soon to make any calls on the accuracy of this report, though — it's a single source, the mooted launch of the console is around 18 months away, and Microsoft has already stated in no uncertain terms that the next Xbox will not be appearing any time soon. In response to MCV's report, the company had this to say:

“Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend its lifecycle like introducing the world to controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention. Beyond that we do not comment on rumors or speculation.”