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Reports Hint At Amazon STB, Next Gen. Xbox

Apple may still not be ready to launch its long-anticipated and speculated-on iTV, but that’s apparently not stopping a couple of other industry giants from moving forward with ambitious online video streaming entertainment devices.

Speculative reports surfaced Wednesday that Microsoft may be preparing to launch its next-generation Xbox console at a special press event in Redmond, Wa., May 21. Reports have suggested that the PC software giant will use the occasion to advance the integration of video gaming and video streaming.

At the same time, a BusinessWeek report said Amazon is hard at work on a rumored set-top box (STB) that will integrate with its Amazon Prime services, as well as, its various Kindle products, to expand the pull of its e-commerce business.

BusinessWeek cited three unnamed insiders saying that Amazon is planning to introduce this fall a dedicated streaming video box that will plug into TVs to access Amazon’s video on demand and Instant Video offerings.

On the streaming entertainment side, the box could compete with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and its possible successor as well as the Sony PlayStations 3 and 4 and STBs from Apple, Roku, Boxee, and Western Digital, among others.

Most of those already offer access to Amazon’s online video offerings.

BusinessWeek speculates that the box would enable Amazon to put its video on demand services more directly in front of consumers, while offering competitive services like Netflix a little less prominently.

The report said the STB is being developed by Amazon’s Lab126 division in Cupertino, Calif., run by Malachy Moynihan, a former emerging video products VP at Cisco Systems, Andy Goodman, a former top engineer at TiVo and Vudu, and Chris Coley, a designer of the old ReplayTV DVR.

Meanwhile, USA Today said Microsoft’s announced “special unveiling” will feature the reveal of a “new generation” something.

Microsoft is expected to keep pace with Sony’s PlayStation 4, which was announced in February and is designed to bring video game play to multiple screens beyond just the TV screen.

Nintendo also launched its Wii U last November.

All will have their work cut out for them, with demand for smart TV sales running lower than expectations, according to recent analysts’ reports.

On the other hand, video game consoles have proven to be the most popular devices in consumers’ homes for accessing streaming video services among other entertainment sources – oh yah, like gaming.

 If the reports pan out, it should make for an interesting holiday selling season to say the least.