I see a pattern emerging here. Apple comes up with the iPad and Microsoft launches the Surface. Then, Apple makes the iPad mini while Microsoft is allegedly readying a gadget code-named Xbox Surface, basically a seven-inch Surface tablet focused on gaming. And now, word on the street is that Redmond is working on its own set-top box to take on the Apple TV and others in the living room space. Aptly named Xbox TV, it’s aimed at casual gamers and regular couch potatoes…

The Verge has the story:

The device will run on the core components of Windows 8 and support casual gaming titles rather than full Xbox games typically found on a dedicated console.

Although hardware specifications aren’t fully locked down, we understand Microsoft will use a chipset to enable an “always on” device that boots quickly and resumes to provide near-instant access to TV and entertainment services.

This jives with what “MS Nerd”, an insider with a solid track record, wrote on Reddit back in March 2012:

My understanding is that we’ll see a Xbox device in late 2013 which does arcade-style games and all the current and future media apps with Kinect (with near-mode). It will be an ARM-based platform price-competitive with the Apple TV (if you own a Kinect already).

A Microsoft spokesperson commented on The Verge story:

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.

The Verge also learned Microsoft is thinking about combining “its core system for the next Xbox with a phone stack” in an effort to deliver so-called Xbox phone, basically a smartphone capable of running a full version of Microsoft’s Xbox Live services.

Microsoft has also reportedly “investigated providing this functionality to TV OEMs, who could include the core services as part of a licensed Xbox television set”, the publication asserts.

I’m totally buying the Xbox TV rumor.

For starters, Microsoft’s credibility in the gaming space cannot be disputed.

I love my PlayStation 3 and think it’s a great console, but I’ be also first to admit that the Xbox 360 runs circles around Sony’s hardware in terms of the living room integration, online services, entertainment and other perks outside the core gaming experience.

And, Kinect is way more enjoyable and better than Sony’s Move controller.

Check out the Halo 4 launch trailer, Microsoft’s so-called system seller for the Xbox.

It all makes perfect sense.

With the Xbox successor about to be introduced, Microsoft can only gain by targeting casual users with an affordable Xbox-branded set-top box. And if Xbox TV is just one in a series of Xbox-branded products we’ll see next year, Microsoft could win the battle for the living room in one fell swoop.

Another thing to consider is Microsoft’s vast array of partnerships in the entertainment industry. Of all the consoles out there, Xbox has most television shows, Hollywood movies and music available.

Thoughts?