It looks as though Microsoft will use the keynote speech by Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas tonight, to announce their support for HD-DVD on the Xbox 360.

Whilst the company have previously denied support for the next-generation DVD format in the Xbox 360, some of the broadest hints possible have been given by Peter Moore in a pre-speech interview with Xbox Live's director of programming Larry Hryb tonight, just hours before the keynote speech was due to start.

In the audio interview posted to the website, Peter Moore said "I'm going to talk about how Xbox 360 plays in to High Definition, clearly we're already playing High Definition games, you can already stream Hi-Def movies through your media centre, ...I'm gonna talk a little bit about, what you'll be able to do on your podcast, I know you're going to be going live right after the show, and you'll be able to give the folks that are going to be listening in a little bit more detail but they should stand by because I think we've got a couple of exciting things to talk about".

Further clarification about quite what Peter meant, came just minutes later when he went on to say that he was going to use the speech to "talk about how we're gonna give more options for high definition, not only gaming but entertainment" - surely a massive indication that support for HD-DVD on the Xbox 360 is imminent, especially with rival format Blue-ray being backed by Sony.

Whilst the pre-speech interview can't be taken as confirmation, it certainly seems that Microsoft are going to pledge their full backing for HD-DVD as a way to bolster support for the format, and we should know by the end of the keynote speech (which starts at 2:30am UK time) exactly what Peter Moore was hinting at, along with the next stage in Xbox 360's lifecycle.

Update: External Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive confirmed at CES