MCV has learnt that Microsoft has been telling partners that the Next Xbox will NOT include a disc drive.
The briefings have been issued under what MCV's source describes as the strictest NDA” they have ever encountered.
Although the console will not include a disc drive, it will offer compatibility with some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage, although it is not known whether this will be proprietary or a more standard format such as SD.
Furthermore, a 2013 launch date for the hardware has been confirmed. What is less clear, however, is the intended timing of Microsoft's announcement.
As revealed by MCV earlier this year, an E3 2012 reveal could still very much be on the cards.
The omission of a disc drive signifies the beginning of a new era for games consoles and represents a potentially savage blow to the already beleaguered video games retail sector.
Of course, retailers will tell you that they are already involved in the digital market. Indeed, GAME is enjoying growing revenue from the sale of digital download cards for digital-only titles and DLC.
Nonetheless, the abolition of physical games is bad news for retail however it is spun. With the Next Xbox positioned as a digital centric platform, the relevance of retail will once once again eroded.
When contacted by MCV Microsoft said that it does not comment on rumour and speculation.
UPDATE: Microsoft has issued a fuller statement to MCV.
Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend its lifecycle like introducing the world to controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships. We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention. Beyond that we do not comment on rumors or speculation.”