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XPlayer Expected in 2007

14 Apr, 2006 By: John Gaudiosi

Sony's PlayStation Portable could have company in the portable gaming market as early as 2007. Microsoft's project code-named “XPlayer” is in development in Redmond, Wash., according to Dean Takahashi, author of the upcoming Spiderworks Press book The Xbox 360 Uncloaked. Takahashi previously wrote Inside the Xbox for Prima Publishing and has good sources inside Microsoft.

Microsoft corporate VP J. Allard, the man behind Xbox Live, is reportedly heading up the project with Xbox 360 system designer Greg Gibson and Xbox finance chief Bryan Lee. A team of 30 engineers at chip-technology company Transmeta is reportedly working on the gaming device. Samsung, which has worked closely with Microsoft as the official HDTV supplier for Xbox 360, is rumored to be involved.

XPlayer is expected to play music and movies, but, like the PSP, games will be the driving force. XPlayer may support titles from the Xbox library, but Takahashi said Microsoft has not decided on many of the XPlayer's capabilities, including its movie playback.

Microsoft has not publicly commented on the device, other than Xbox corporate VP Peter Moore telling Business Week that the Xbox brand is an opportunity if Microsoft decides to enter the mobile entertainment space.

Microsoft restructured its company last fall to expand the realm of chief Xbox officer Robbie Bach to head up the Entertainment and Devices Group, which includes Xbox, mobile devices, MSN, music and home productivity software. This opened the door for a portable entertainment device to be designed that would incorporate both gaming and music as key features, allowing Microsoft to target competitors Sony and Apple with one device.

Also, Microsoft is working on its own music digital-distribution service, code-named “Alexandria,” which would link to the XPlayer. Microsoft is expected to connect this new service to Xbox Live. Microsoft recently inked a deal with Epic Records to bring exclusive music videos to Xbox Live and let gamers play online against a monthly Artist of the Month from Epic.

The XPlayer is not part of the Origami Project that Microsoft recently unveiled. That handheld computer will play entertainment, but it will have computer functionality and a high price. XPlayer is expected to be priced to sell to the mass market and focus solely on interactive and linear entertainment.

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