Xbox 720

In what is about the worst-kept secret in the gaming industry, both Sony and Microsoft are working on next-generation consoles to replace the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, respectively. While neither company will admit anything, it is widely-known that they are in development.

You can check out Blythe’s superb roundup of the PS4 here, but what’s the deal with the next Xbox?

Much like the PS4, the next Xbox figures to have a redesigned controller. There has been much speculation that Microsoft will opt for a touch-screen controller much like the Wii U. Reports suggest that the touchscreen will be HD and also serve as a remote and internet browser when not being used to display game information. It supposedly will be similar in size to the Vita.

Unlike the PS4, the next Xbox will have expanded voice control. Xbox 360 owners already have limited voice capability via Kinect, but the next iteration of the console will reportedly have “Siri-like” functionality that promises to be much more robust.

That expanded voice command feature ties in nicely with another rumor: the next Xbox will require a constant internet connection. Services like Siri currently require a connection to the mysterious and all-powerful cloud, so if the new console will boast voice command capability on the same level as Siri, then it helps explain the decision to require a constant connection.

Of course, the requirement of a constant internet hookup goes beyond Siri. Xbox Live has been a hug feather in Microsoft’s cap, and it stands to reason that the online service will get a facelift and offer new features and services to coincide with the launch of a new console. Windows 8 compatibility and integration is almost a certainty, especially with the release of the Surface tablet and SmartGlass app.

Digital downloads have long been seen as the future of the industry, and a constant internet connection is a step towards that eventuality, although sources have said that physical copies will still be offered for now.

One thing that is in dispute is the ability to play used games. Some reports claim that games for the new console will ship with activation codes and have “no value beyond the initial user,” but many industry analysts disagree and view that as unlikely.  

Other rumors regarding Microsoft’s next console state that it will be powered by an AMD processor and have six times the processing power of the 360. It will supposedly be 20 percent more powerful than the Wii U, the latest console to be released.

The new Xbox is also rumored to contain a Blu-ray drive as well as the second-generation version of Kinect, creatively dubbed Kinect 2. One interesting bit of news is that the new platform may also feature IllumiRoom. Revealed at last month’s CES expo, IllumiRoom turns the area around your TV into an “extension of the screen”.

It is believed that the new console will be officially revealed in the next couple of months—including as soon as March—and that it will launch sometime this fall.