What just happened? Microsoft has confirmed that Phil Spencer once again revealed an unreleased product by leaving it on his shelf. On this occasion, the Xbox head briefly showed off his company's cloud-based Game Pass streaming device, codenamed Keystone, though it's only an old prototype; the final version will probably look quite different.
Spencer seems to have a penchant for leaving unreleased Microsoft products exposed for all to see—but not necessarily notice. He gave interviews in 2020, months before the Xbox Series S was released, in which the console was sitting on his bookshelf behind him.
Now what did we say about putting old prototypes on your shelf boss— Xbox (@Xbox) October 10, 2022
In a tweet to mark Fallout's 25th anniversary, Spencer wrote: "Vault Boy left the shelter and stopped by my office to celebrate the #Fallout25 Anniversary." He included a photo of his shelves holding some Fallout merchandise and other items, including what looks like a tiny Xbox at the top with a smaller-than-standard controller next to it.
People instantly guessed that the device in the image was Keystone. Back in May, Microsoft confirmed it was still working on a streaming-only device, expected to be a mini set-top box or dongle running a version of the Xbox OS. It'll likely include streaming apps, too. The Redmond company said at the time that it was pivoting to a new approach for Keystone and refocusing its efforts.
Microsoft has now confirmed that the device on Spencer's shelf is an older prototype version of Keystone—i.e., the one being worked on before the company moved away from that design.
We haven't heard much about Keystone since Microsoft's announcement in May. It's hard to imagine that Spencer didn't intentionally leave the prototype exposed to remind people that the device is still being worked on. Perhaps this was an attempt to gain attention ahead of some official Microsoft announcement.
There's been a lot of talk about streaming-only services following Google's admission that Stadia is to close in a few months after it failed to achieve the expected user numbers. The Xbox Game Pass service is already very popular and is available on phones and Samsung TVs, so a dedicated box might succeed where others have failed.