Next Xbox Rumor: Will Run Windows 9 and ARM

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Smaller, less expensive and running Windows 9 on an ARM processor—that may just be Microsoft’s next Xbox, according to a rumormonger known for getting predictions like this right.

Blogger MSNerd allots most of his “Clarity” post to defending his position that Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phone won’t be one operating system, but toward the close, he adds this:

The Xbox is another story altogether. With a heady mix of rumors, tips and speculation, I am now stating that Xbox codename “loop” (the erstwhile XboxTV) will indeed debut a modified Win9 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 will also demonstrate how Windows Phone could possible implement Win9’s dev platform on the lower end.

(MORE: Rumor: Microsoft to Announce Xbox 360 Successor at E3 2012)

Takeaways: If it’s truly codenamed “loop,” read nothing into that name, because code-names are patent non sequiturs. I’ll go out on a limb (though one that feels thick as a Redwood) and say the chances Microsoft calls whatever’s next an “Xbox 720″ are pretty much zero.

Other claims, like that it’ll be smaller and cheaper, are hardly bold. If the iPad 2′s already half as powerful as an Xbox 360, per id Software’s John Carmack (Doom, Quake), it’s no stretch to envision Microsoft’s next games console as analogous to a slightly bigger, thicker tablet, using the latest semiconductor technology. iXbox, anyone?

No, the most intrepid takeaway here is the note about Microsoft shifting to the ARM architecture and away from the Xbox 360′s IBM-designed Xenon PowerPC-based processor. The Zune HD, to which MSNerd compares the new architecture, uses an Nvidia Tegra APX 2600, which divides tasks like mainline processing, graphics rendering, audio and video playback between ARM11 and ARM7 general processor cores. Imagine the next Xbox using something like the latest iteration of that.

Why should we trust MSNerd? We shouldn’t, because this isn’t even directly sourced stuff, but the blog did have signal information about Microsoft’s now defunct Courier tablet (per SF Gate).

Timeframes? We’re as blank on those as we’ve ever been, but speculation puts the next Xbox as announcing in 2012 (probably at E3 2012) and arriving sometime 2013.

MORE: Nintend’oh! Wii U Won’t Feature DVD or Blu-ray Playback

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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