Why an Xbox Surface could be great for Microsoft

The Verge has thrown fuel on rumors of an Xbox Surface with this report today claiming that Microsoft is developing a 7-inch tablet for gamers. Citing “multiple sources familiar with plans within Redmond,” the tablet will likely include souped-up hardware as well as a custom version of Windows designed specifically to support games.

I’ve been pretty critical of Microsoft lately, but I agree with GeekWire that this move makes a ton of sense. A gaming-centric tablet could deliver rich graphics and immersive game play that simply isn’t possible in traditional mobile gaming — which is to say, on a phone. A gaming tablet could conceivably feature a few “hard keys” that would enable developers to integrate both console-type controls with the touch screen of a tablet, providing an entirely new way of controlling the action. And the move gives Microsoft the opportunity to leverage its Xbox Live community of 40 million users by giving those gamers a way to take their Xbox experience with them when they’re away from the console.

I’ve long believed Microsoft was wrong to focus on gaming when it initially launched Windows Phone, partially because playing on a phone is such a different experience than console gaming. But an Xbox Surface could entice some hardcore gamers who have yet to embrace mobile gaming. And it could give the entire Windows ecosystem — including Windows Mobile — a big lift.