What are the chances that the next Xbox is not a console?
With all the rumors and speculation lately concerning the next Xbox (aka the Xbox 720), there seems to be a consistent theme that the new xbox will have better hardware and a 10 year lifeline. It will have a blu ray player and the same metro interface along with streaming/content options the current 360 has. However, lets look at the gaming world as a whole and see if maybe Microsoft is planning something (kinda) revolutionary.
The Xbox 360 is almost 7 years old, and to date has sold less than 70 million consoles (68 million reported at E3). From a traditional console gaming standpoint, that is a success. Microsoft certainly considers it a success, and the revenues from xbox live, dlc, and the music/video marketplace have made the 360 extremely profitable.
However, there was a new toy released a little over two years ago. The iPad. The iPad has been hugely successful for Apple, and has sold a staggering number. A recent report theorized that Apple will sell 52 million *this year.* And this is after that same report states that this is because growth is slowing down!
I don't know whether the profit Apple receives from its App Store (which also includes the iPhone and iPod Touch) is behind, close, or above the profit Microsoft gets from their Xbox division. However, the tablet market is so important that Microsoft is now releasing its very own tablet, the Surface.
Another competitor to Microsoft (although not as big a threat as Apple) is Steam. PC gaming now essentially equates to playing Steam on your PC. Games for Windows Live has come and gone, and only companies like Blizzard are surviving without Steam access.
Now that we're done with the history lesson, here's what I think Microsoft will do:
There will be an Xbox 720 (obviously). However, it will be marketed mainly as an entertainment box that can also play games and power your Kinect 2. The radical change Microsoft will implement is making Xbox games playable on all Windows 8 devices - from tablets to laptops to desktops. Games for Windows Live has already been scrapped. There is already an Xbox Live app in Windows 8. Microsoft will simply combine PC gaming along with console gaming.
Games will be able to support touch, controller, kinect, and keyboard/mouse input. Developers won't be required to actually support all those inputs, but the options are there so that the consumer can choose where they want to play the game. Furthermore games will have same day digital releases along with disc releases. So you'll be able to buy Halo 5 in disc or digital format the very same day. The advantage to digital format is you'll be able to download that game on any Windows 8 device or your Xbox 720.
The biggest problem with this movement is the same problem with PC gaming - what about specs? My thoughts are that Microsoft will set up a minimum spec for each platform. For phone the specs are X, for desktops/laptops, Y, and for tablets Z. If a developer wants to make a game available on all platforms, they'll meet the minimum requirement for those platforms. Developers will be able to still make Xbox only games and PC only games, but it'll be in their mutual interest to make the game available on both platforms.
To wrap this up, Microsoft has a big decision ahead of it. It has already combined the phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop experience with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Xbox also shares the same UI and some similar background apps. Why doesn't Microsoft just create its own Valvebox as the next Xbox, and allow all Windows 8 devices to run Xbox Live games?
tl;dr My hope for the next Xbox is that it allows us to play xbox live games on all Windows 8 devices.