In January, Peter Moore, the corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business section of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, made a promise. Speaking with the Bloomberg news service, he said the Zune multimedia device--intended to be Microsoft's answer to the iPod--would have some sort of gaming functionality by 2008.
Since then, little has been heard about gaming on the Zune. Many believe that it will have only basic gaming functionality like the iPod. However, a patent application approved last week with the United States Patent and Trademark Office suggests that something more advanced could be on the horizon.
The patent application, Number 20070087830, is for a "multi-component gaming system" that will include "handheld devices and console devices." Described in broad and generic terms, the proposed system will have "variable functionality and processing performance as determined by the number of components in the system."
"The processing capabilities and functionality of each gaming component in a combination are augmented by the processing capabilities and functionality of other gaming components in the combination," reads the patent. "To take advantage of another gaming components processing capabilities and memory capacity, each gaming component is capable of utilizing another gaming component to process gaming applications."
One of the functionalities Microsoft's console-portable system will support sounds similar to how PlayStation Portable users can stream video off PlayStation 3 systems. "Each gaming component is capable of rendering audio and/or video information provided by another gaming component," reads the patent. Currently, Zunes can transfer audio files wirelessly via a process called "squirting."
Since Microsoft doesn't have a gaming portable--yet--the system outlined by the patent could be some sort of connectivity between a gaming-enabled Zune and a wireless-adapter-equipped Xbox 360. However, the patent does not mention specific consoles or handhelds, nor are any pictured in the images accompanying the application.
When asked for comment by GameSpot, Microsoft politely declined. "Just because there's a patent doesn't mean anything's announced or official," a rep said. "And we don't comment on rumors or speculation."
Whatever Microsoft has up its sleeve, it has had it planned for quite some time: The patent was initially filed on October 14, 2005--just over a month before the Xbox 360 first went on sale.