The Xbox One is enormous; it's bigger than the Xbox 360. Its boxy VCR-like design is polarizing*. This is not how technology is supposed to work. Electronics and gadgets are supposed to get smaller, not bigger. Microsoft knows this, and rumor has it the company is working on a smaller Xbox One without a Blu-ray drive.
According to two independent reports, the first one from NeoGAF user "chubigans" and the other from The Verge, Microsoft is testing a version of the Xbox One that eschews an optical disc drive. "Chubigans" suggests the Blu-ray drive-less Xbox One could cost $399, while The Verge says its sources believe the set-top box-style console could launch worldwide by the end of the year.
This isn't the first time we heard of a smaller, digital-only Xbox. Long before the Xbox One was even announced, it was rumored Microsoft was considering a two-console approach for Xbox. One would be a traditional console — Xbox One. The other — a small set-top box aimed at casual gamers. As we all know, Xbox One materialized, and the other vanished into the rumor ether. No mention of Kinect-connectivity in either reports could also suggest a set-top Xbox may not bundle one in; another factor that could keep pricing lower.
While Microsoft missed the boat with Blu-ray in the last generation, it made up for it with the Xbox One. It's debatable where gaming is headed. Some believe digital downloads still have a ways to go, while others believe streaming games via the cloud is the future.
Something everyone can agree on is this: physical media — optical discs; specifically Blu-ray discs — is becoming less desirable every year. We listen to our music and watch our movies streamed from the cloud to small set-top boxes, tablets, smartphones or directly to our TVs, so why not gaming?
Sony may be the first one out of the gate with its PlayStation Now game streaming service, but Microsoft could easily catch up. Microsoft has a strong cloud-based infrastructure already in place, so it's entirely possible for it to pull of a respectable cloud-streaming service and accompanying console, even if it is aimed at casual gamers.
In other Xbox news, the two reports also confirm a white-colored Xbox One is coming later this year. Additionally, a 1TB model could be released in November, too. (Current Xbox One consoles all come with 500GB hard drives). A revamped Xbox One dashboard with fixes and additions for features such as party chat and Xbox Live will drop in March.
*Ripping on the Xbox One for being a behemoth of a box was unfair of me. It's large because Microsoft wanted to ensure the console had enough room for heat dissipation. Remember the Xbox 360 and its bloody Red Ring of Death? Yeah, Microsoft didn't want a repeat. Still, that's no excuse to give the Xbox One such a chunky-looking design.