Rumor: Microsoft preparing set-top box version of next Xbox, to be revealed pre-holiday 2013

Microsoft may be preparing a lite version of its next-generation console specifically made for set-top box purposes. The Verge says the device -- dubbed "Xbox TV" -- will be part of Microsoft's next-gen console strategy, offering a low-cost alternative to the still unannounced, "Durango" with "access to core entertainment services;" it's also said to be an "always on" device. The report also posits that both Microsoft's next system and this alternate device will be revealed and released ahead of holiday 2013.

It's unclear exactly what the rumored set-top box's "core entertainment services" might be, but it's not hard to imagine it comprising the recently revamped Xbox Video / Music services, as well as the myriad other multimedia services available through the current-gen Xbox 360. The company is also allegedly exploring Xbox TV as a service, licensed out to various television manufacturers and integrated on a software level -- none of this sounds especially far-fetched considering Microsoft's new strategy of marketing the Xbox brand as its entertainment wing, as well as pitching its latest version of Windows as a scalable, multi-device OS.

For Redmond's part, the company's only issuing the following boilerplate statement: "Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend the console lifecycle by introducing 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." We expect to hear many more rumblings on the next-gen front after the coming holiday season.