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Microsoft starts E3 countdown, stirring rumors of next Xbox

Microsoft's director of programming for Xbox Live posted a countdown timer to the E3 trade show on his blog.

Without saying much of anything, Microsoft has hinted that its next Xbox will break cover at the E3 trade show in June.

Larry Hryb, Microsoft's director of programming for Xbox Live, posted this E3 countdown timer on his blog.

Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, Microsoft's director of programming for Xbox Live, has posted a countdown timer to E3 on his blog. Nothing accompanies the post except the headline ("Countdown to E3 2013"), a link to the official E3 Website, and the words "And it's on..."

E3 is scheduled for June 11-13 in Los Angeles, though Microsoft usually holds a press conference the day before the show floor opens.

In fairness, Hryb could be counting down to anything--yet another version of Halo, perhaps, or the rumored "Xbox Surface" tablet. Or maybe he just woke up on this morning and realized he was really excited for a trade show that's six months away.

Still, it'd be surprising if Microsoft didn't have big news in store for E3. The Xbox 360 is now more than seven years old, and with rumors of a late 2013 launch for its successor, the timing is right for a June announcement at the industry's big U.S. trade show.

In addition to the requisite improvements in graphics, processing power and memory, the next Xbox is rumored to include a Blu-ray player, a more accurate version of the Kinect motion controller, 3D sound, and "always-on" functionality. Later in the console's lifespan, Microsoft may offer augmented reality glasses for use with the Xbox. To compete with smaller set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku, Microsoft may also release an Xbox Mini with a focus on streaming video and casual games.

Plenty of questions linger about this as-yet unannounced product, such as whether the next Xbox will be backward-compatible, require an Internet connection, or have any built-in restrictions on used games. As of this writing, though, answers may only be 158 days away.

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