It seems a bit soon to be talking about life 'beyond' the Xbox One, but that's exactly what Xbox head Phil Spencer has done now that Microsoft is ceasing production of the Xbox 360 console.
In a post on the Xbox Wire blog Spencer spent most of his time detailing how the end of the Xbox 360's life would be handled, with Xbox Live servers remaining online to support legacy 360 games, and games for the console continuing to be sold while existing stocks last.
More interesting was Spencer's cryptic allusion to what would be coming next. In the penultimate sentence of the post he teased: "Over the next few weeks and months, we'll be sharing more of our plans for gaming on Xbox One, Windows 10 and beyond."
Beyond the Xbox
The obvious meaning of the word 'beyond' is hardware. Nintendo is on the cusp of announcing its NX console, and Sony has its Playstation VR headset coming later this year. Microsoft has its own HoloLens coming at an unannounced point in the future, but with the company only having started shipping out development kits last month, it's significantly behind its VR competition.
Now that the industry is investing so heavily in VR it would be unthinkable for Microsoft to not have a competitor in the market.
However, with the HTC Vive and Playstation VR cornering the high-end and budget ends of the market respectively, Microsoft needs to make sure its arguments for its augmented reality offering are up to snuff if it's going to compete with the established VR players.
It is worth remembering, however, that both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive run on Microsoft's Windows operating system, so even if it doesn't currently have hardware in the market it's still playing an important role in the VR ecosystem with its OS software and DirectX gaming APIs.
Had the possibility not been specifically denied by Spencer earlier this month at Microsoft's Build 2016 developer keynote, we'd have also hazarded a guess that 'beyond' referred to an Xbox hardware refresh.
With the industry seemingly moving away from a six-year hardware cycle it seems almost inevitable that Microsoft will release new console hardware before the Xbox One has had its six years in the spotlight.
However, any such incremental hardware upgrade would need to walk a fine line, offering a substantive upgrade without leaving Xbox One users out in the cold by making their consoles completely obsolete.
A 'slim' version of the console, which is functionally the same as the original Xbox One, is almost inevitable, but whether Microsoft adds any new functionality (such as the 4K promised by Sony's Playstation 4.5 NEO) is less certain.
Whatever Microsoft has up its sleeve better be good, as its Xbox One has performed poorly against Sony's PlayStation 4 since its release.
- Check out our hands-on HoloLens review
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