As Bill Gates’ final CES keynote address approaches, rumors persist that he will use the occasion to announce something big about the future of the Xbox 360.

According to a Joystiq report, Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley has suggested Gates may announce that Microsoft “may be preparing to license the Xbox gaming platform to consumer electronics companies.” If true, outside manufacturers such as Toshiba could build Xbox 360-based gaming consoles that would also integrate other technologies, such as DVR capabilities and an HD-DVD drive. Toshiba is tied closely to the speculation due to previous rumors that the company was already at work on a new and more advanced Xbox system.

Microsoft may also announce that it will simply be adding the HD-DVD drives to future Xbox 360 systems on their own, in order to shrink the technological gap between it and Sony’s PlayStation 3 console, which includes a Blu-ray drive.

The 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show will take place frum January 7-10, 2008, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. More information is available at the CES website.

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