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Rumor: The next Xbox will arrive in 2012


Will we meet the next Xbox next year? The Magic 8 Ball -- and some inside tipsters -- say: "Signs point to yes."

Rumors about the next incarnation of the Xbox have been coming fast and furious this week.

It seems multiple nameless tipsters have been offering various tech reporters the supposed skinny on Microsoft's sequel to the Xbox 360.

Perhaps the most interesting (and credible) of these tip-offs arrived via the Windows Weekly podcast in which tech reporter Paul Thurrott says he's been told that the next Xbox — codenamed "Project Ten" — is coming next year. That's much sooner than the 2014 date previously rumored.

"The interesting thing about it is that I'm hearing that it will come out for the holidays next year, meaning that they would almost have to announce this at CES," he said in his podcast, referring to the January 2012 electronics trade show where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will give the opening keynote address.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft, maker of the Xbox.)

Thurrott said he was also told that the next Xbox will feature the Metro UI design that got its start with Windows Phones and include embedded Silverlight. He added that Microsoft is "going the Apple route," meaning that it would integrate closely with Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Thurrott's information certainly makes a lot of sense. We've already seen Microsoft pushing to make its Windows Phone play nice with the current-generation Xbox 360. And the soon-to-launch dashboard update for the Xbox 360 will feature a Metro-style UI as will Xbox.com, which is getting revamped in the coming days.

Meanwhile, as far as the 2012 launch date rumor goes, of the current generation of competing game consoles (Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3) the Xbox 360 is the oldest, having launched in 2005. And with Nintendo already announcing that it will release its next machine — the Wii U — in 2012, it makes sense that Microsoft might want to do the same.

His information also somewhat matches previous rumors that Microsoft is planning to unveil its next Xbox at next year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Meanwhile, earlier this year, rumors out of Taiwan claimed the PlayStation 4 would be arriving in 2012 as well.

But Thurrott isn't the only one claiming inside info on Microsoft's next Xbox. A far less credible — but no less thrilling — account comes from a blogger over at MS Nerd, basing his piece on "a heady mix of rumors, tips and speculation:"

... Xbox codename “loop” (the erstwhile Xbox TV) will indeed debut a modified Win 9 core. It will use a Zune HD-like hardware platform — a “main” processor with multiple dedicated assistive cores for graphics, AI, physics, sound, networking, encryption and sensors. It will be custom designed by Microsoft and two partners based on the ARM architecture. It will be cheaper than the 360, further enabling Kinect adoption. And it will be far smaller than the 360.

It doesn't seems far-fetched to suggest the next Xbox will be smaller than the current Xbox 360 and perhaps even cheaper ... but Windows 9? If Windows 8 ships in fall 2012 as planned, the earliest we'd see Windows 9 is 2015, and nobody wants to wait that long.

Whatever the case, whether it's codenamed Loop or Project Ten, the next Xbox is most certainly in the works. But as long as we're speculating about what the future Xbox has in store for us ... what do you hope to see from Microsoft's next game machine?

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+. And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.