Over the years, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to turn the Xbox 360 into an all-purpose home entertainment console and not just a hardcore gaming machine. Today, a 360 offers Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, music streaming and even Internet Explorer for browsing the open Web. The next step in that evolution, according to a new report in The Verge, could see the Xbox maker dropping the gaming side of the equation entirely.

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release an "Xbox TV" set top box that will offer all of Xbox's entertainment options without actually playing Xbox console games. The box would feature a Windows 8-based OS and be announced alongside a full-blown successor to the Xbox 360 late next year.

By skipping out on all the expensive gaming hardware, Microsoft will be able to create a compact, relatively inexpensive entertainment solution to compete with the likes of Apple TV and the Roku box.

Xbox TV would also represent a further expansion of Microsoft's hardware profile in general and Xbox brand in particular, two goals it has been telegraphing for a while. A new gaming tablet to be known as "Xbox Surface" is also reportedly in the works.

[via The Verge]