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Xbox handheld talk continues

Thursday 1 June 2006
A US-based research company firmly believes that a move into the handheld market is still a part of Microsoft's long term plan.

The firm, called The Diffusion Group, recently published a report which has the catchy title of On the Future of Portable Game Consoles: Analysis & Forecasts. It outlines how Microsoft is perfectly placed to get involved with the portable gaming market, in which revenues are "expected to reach $3 billion annually by 2008", and how it could be ready to do so in the next couple of years.

The important thing to remember is that this is The Diffusion Group's educated opinion rather than a leaked confirmation, but many maintain such a movie would make perfect sense. Microsoft's strategy to establish itself as the major force in the gaming market has included championing online gaming and beating both Nintendo and Sony to the punch with a next-gen console, so it seems the only thing left for it to do would be to muscle in on the handheld market.

It would also tie in with Microsoft's latest online service, Live Anywhere, which will allow for cross-platform gaming. At the moment, this is intended to unite gamers using consoles, PCs and mobile phones - with only phones providing any portability. But to really get across the 'Anywhere' aspect of the service, a gaming portable like DS or PSP would surely be needed.

Add to this the fact that J Allard, previously the face of everything Xbox, has been conspicuous by his absence recently, leading to further speculation that the Lex Luther look-alike is working on a pocket-sized Xbox.

All speculation of course - and unfortunately the only official line from Microsoft is "we don't have any plans to do anything in the handheld space", which is what Xbox Europe regional vice president Chris Lewis said at this year's E3. But it seems no matter how adamant Microsoft is in its denials, nothing will stop the speculation.