Xbox handheld coming...eventually

Microsoft exec Shane Kim says mobile plans for its gaming division are still coming, but have taken a backseat to other pursuits such as Project Natal.

Shortly before the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, rumors surfaced that Microsoft was on the verge of announcing the ZuneX.

The ZuneX was purported to be a gaming handheld that integrated with Xbox Live Arcade and "ZuneX originals" and featured mobile-phone capabilities. That's a marked contrast from the current generation, which offers only a half-dozen games despite promises of titles that would be transferable from the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 may soon have a small, sleeker sibling.

With that rumor quickly marginalized as a phony by many industry watchers, Microsoft has now once again signaled that its portable gaming ambitions may extend beyond the struggling Zune. In an interview with gaming site Kikizo, Microsoft executive Shane Kim said that the Xbox brand is destined for the mobile platform.

"For us, it's a matter of focusing on 'when,'" said Kim, who transitioned from his role as head of Microsoft Game Studios to a strategic development position within the Interactive Entertainment and Devices division last year.

As for what's been holding up that "when," Kim said that the division has been focused on fleshing out the core Xbox 360 and Xbox Live experiences.

"If we chased after a mobile or handheld opportunity, we would not have the resources and ability to do things like instant-on 1080p HD, Facebook, Twitter, Project Natal," he said. "And so we've chosen to focus on the living room experience from a hardware standpoint, if you will, but we're building a service in Live that will...will extend to other platforms." [Emphasis in original.]

One other question facing the company is what form a mobile gaming device would take. "How do we enter into that market," pondered Kim. "Do we do our own device, do we create our own phone--that's a question for the company itself--do we continue to go down the Windows Mobile path, which is the path that we're on today, etcetera, etcetera."

Kim concluded by reemphasizing Microsoft's desire to be a player on all relevant platforms, whether that be consoles, desktops, or mobile devices.

This article was originally posted on GameSpot.com.

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