It seems two separate Surface builds aimed at consumer and enterprise aren't enough for Microsoft, as rumours mount of a third, gaming-focused flavour of the Microsoft tablet.
According to The Verge, multiple sources within Microsoft's Redmond development labs have confirmed that a seven-inch version of Surface is being built specifically to support and expand upon Microsoft's Xbox gaming brand, and will include a custom-built Windows 8 kernel.
Specifications for the tablet are said to approximately follow those apparently leaked back in June, as a supposed development document outlined a seven-inch Xbox-branded tablet featuring an ARM-based, Texas instruments-sourced microprocessor with 288MB of RLDRAM (reduced-latency memory).
The Verge's source also states, however, that the ARM aspect could be altered to instead feature an as-yet unannounced Intel system-on-a-chip design. The tablet is apparently being developed separately from Microsoft's other hardware architecture, making it a particularly "secret" project.
In the gaming domain, Microsoft has already trumpeted its console's ability to interface with tablets of any make or brand via its SmartGlass app, launched for Android in late October and today on Apple iOS. SmartGlass enables Xbox gamers to interact with games titles in fairly modest ways, letting them interact with the console's media menu features via other devices, or view various additional details in-game, such as maps of race tracks.
It's difficult to understand what Microsoft hopes to achieve by introducing a dedicated Surface tablet for gaming. The notable seven-inch size – the only hint of a small tablet by Microsoft so far – suggests an intention to extend its Surface lines for consumer and enterprise with a "mini" version, but how many different options can Microsoft offer before it floods its own market?
The Verge's source also claims that the Xbox Surface will be released before Microsoft's upcoming "next Xbox" console, so there's a keen possibility of the company shooting for a "mobile" version of the existing Xbox 360 – be it through streaming games from the existing console or hosting and running content locally through its souped-up specs.
The tablet could then prove a centrepiece of Microsoft's multimedia strategy for its next console launch, further cementing the company's long-held intention to augment its device-bridging consumer and enterprise solutions with an all-encompassing home entertainment package.