TOKYO - Forget the video game console - your TV could already have the brains to play those games. A coy Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hinted Thursday that his company might license the software underlying its Xbox gaming machine to a variety of outside companies in a bid to expand the market share for the Xbox machine - a platform that trails the sector's No. 1 Sony PlayStation.
The U.S. software company is considering offering "the basic software" for Xbox, although no decision has been made, Microsoft Japan spokesman Kazushi Okabe said Thursday, confirming the Gates' comments reported in Thursday's editions of Japan's top business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun.
Gates hasn't offered specifics about the kind of software or which companies would be involved. He also hasn't said whether the arrangement will involve manufacturers making products other than game machines, such as digital consumer electronics gadgets that combine PC functions with home appliances.
The arrangements being considered are similar to those that Microsoft has employed in the past by working with other companies, including Japanese electronics makers, to install its Windows operating system in personal computers, Okabe said.
It's unclear whether such gadgets will carry the Xbox brand name or some other name, and whether the software that may become available to outsiders will be Xbox or Xbox 360.
Microsoft plans to start selling its next-generation game machine Xbox 360 later this year while Sony plans to introduce the PlayStation 3 next spring.
The Redmond, Wash.-based firm hopes the head start will cut into Sony's lead in the market, and has been trying to appeal to Japanese consumers by attracting top Japanese designers to create games for Xbox 360.
Sony's PlayStation 2 controls more than half the world's video game market, while Xbox and Nintendo Co.'s GameCube split the rest.
Ken Kutaragi, who heads Sony Corp.'s video-game unit, has said that the computer chip that powers PlayStation 3 called "cell" will likely be used in other digital audiovisual products from the Japanese electronics maker.
PlayStation 3 will also play the next-generation DVD format that Sony is backing called Blu-ray Disc. Xbox 360 will run the current DVD standard, although Gates says that could be expanded to next-generation versions in the future.