Eric Johnson

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Durango on the Horizon: Here’s What’s Interesting About Microsoft’s New Xbox

Xbox_inviteIn just a few hours, Microsoft is scheduled to unveil its newest videogame console, code-named Durango.

The Xbox 360 sequel will be Microsoft’s first completely new console — unless you count the 360 add-on Kinect, which few would — since 2005. Rumors abound about everything from its name (Xbox Infinity? Xbox 720?) to whether the new Xbox will require a consistent Internet connection, a long-running fan theory seemingly rebutted earlier this month by an internal email that Ars Technica said it has.

But the most important thing to remember is that for Microsoft this event is about much more than games. The company’s PR line is that the big reveal is about “a new generation of games, TV and entertainment.”

This is not a surprise. With more than 76 million of the consoles installed worldwide, non-gaming Xbox usage has been outpacing gaming usage since last March, growing 57 percent in the past year.

And last year at this time, we learned that the Xbox was the most popular video-playing gadget in the U.S., according to video ad company FreeWheel.

Then, at D: Dive Into Media in February, Microsoft’s entertainment and digital media president Nancy Tellem told AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka that the interactive original content Microsoft has been developing in a 125-person studio in Santa Monica could be released this year.

Some industry watchers have speculated that Durango and Sony’s PlayStation 4 could be the “last consoles,” but that narrative is a goose chase. “Console,” today, means something completely different from what it meant 20, 10 or even five years ago.

The thing to keep an eye on today, then, is how much of the planned one-hour presentation will be spent on games versus all the other forms of media that the new Xbox will be able to interact with and control. With game developers’ attention spans waning, it would not be out of the question for most of the show to be about the “TV and entertainment” parts of that PR line.

The unveiling event on Microsoft’s Redmond campus is scheduled to begin at 10 am PT (1 pm ET), and will be broadcast live on cable channel Spike TV and GameSpot’s channel on Twitch. AllThingsD will be in attendance and posting the news here.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google