Microsoft's chief XNA architect J Allard is set to give a keynote address at the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco this March, in a session titled "The Future of Games: Unlocking the Opportunity".
Allard is the first keynote speaker of the conference to be announced, and will take the stage at 10.30am on Wednesday, March 9th - but his presence at the event actually puts a dampener on the chances of Xbox 2 being unveiled there.
His keynote is described in somewhat vague terms - it promises to talk about "pushing the industry forward" and using new technology to revolutionise game development and the gaming experience - but it's generally believed that the unveiling of Xbox 2 would only be performed by Microsoft's very top executives.
Of course, Allard's presence on the keynote track doesn't in any way rule out the possibility of a presentation by CEO Steve Ballmer or, more likely, chairman Bill Gates, before the conference opens its doors.
Past history is on the side of this argument - GDC was the place where Bill Gates originally unveiled the Xbox and Microsoft's first steps into the console industry - but the timing may not fit for the company.
Sony has hinted broadly that it will make an announcement related to PlayStation 3 by the end of its financial year in March, with early dev kits also expected to ship in that timeframe, and indeed the GDC Programming track includes a developer introduction to the Cell microprocessor which will power the PS3.
Microsoft, with a console launch supposedly planned for the third quarter of this year, is running quite a short gap between announcing its hardware and releasing it - but a popular theory suggests that it may be hoping for Sony to blink first so that it can make last-minute adjustments to the Xbox 2 in order to match key elements of the PS3's specification such as memory and storage.
Either way, all three console manufacturers are expected to unveil their hardware either at or before E3 in mid-May - although just how far into development the units will be at that stage is in question. If Xbox 2 is to launch in September, playable software at E3 is a must, whereas PlayStation 3 and Revolution, both on 2006 launch timescales, have a little more breathing room - and just as well, since third party developers have yet to see even prototype dev kits for either system.