According to San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi, who is currently working on a book about the launch of the Xbox 360, unspecified sources have informed him that executive J Allard is to head efforts by Microsoft to create a new portable, Xbox branded, console, with other prominent Xbox figures also being involved.
Although once the most prominent spokesperson for the Xbox, Allard's visibility has noticeably fallen since the release of the Xbox 360, coinciding with his move from Xbox corporate vice president
to a then unspecified role overseeing the "design and user experience" for all of Microsoft's gaming and entertainment products. He will allegedly be joined on the new project by Xbox 360 system designer Greg Gibson and Xbox finance chief Bryan Lee.
Takahashi, who is known to have significant contacts within Microsoft, claims that the primary focus of the device will be as a video games console, while also allowing it to play music and video files. The logic driving the decision being that gaming is the one area in which Apple have no foothold, suggesting that Microsoft still sees its ultimate portable rival as the iPod, even if the device's functionality is closer to that of the PSP.
The project is described as being separate to the partially unveiled Origami
tablet PC and Takahashi implies that it will be Xbox branded (referring to the project as "Xplayer") and potentially compatible with existing Xbox games.
Apart from this various inside sources at Microsoft, Takahashi cites as evidence for the project the fact that low-power chip technology specialist Transmeta last year assigned thirty engineers to a secret Microsoft project, while also using quotes from Peter Moore suggesting possible future uses of the Xbox brand.
Finally, Takahashi speculates that the new portable would not be ready before 2007, since Gibson and his group of engineers only became free for the new project in the autumn of 2005. Microsoft has not commented on the rumors.