Microsoft has confirmed that its new Xbox 360 will stream music directly from iPods - but that it has no official deal with Apple for such support.

Microsoft told CNet that users will be able to plug their iPods into one of the console's three USB 2.0 ports and then be able to access, navigate and play music held on the music player. Users will also be able to stream photos the same way.

Gamers will be able to search an iPod's contents by artist, album, genre or playlist. However, Microsoft has not reached a deal with Apple to license Apple's FairPlay digital rights management software. This means iTunes song purchases won't be able to be played back through the Xbox 360.

"We do not have an official relationship with Apple for the iPod connectivity," Microsoft product manager Scott Henson said. He explained that the Xbox 360 exploits existing standards to provide iPod support. Apple spurned attempts to reach an official deal for support, "so we built all the support we could", he said.

He declined to confirm or deny questions asking if Microsoft had reverse-engineered Apple's product to achieve the support. The report explains such engineering may have been required to penetrate the iPod's built-in music filing system.

The report speculates that Apple may issue an iTunes/iPod software patch to disable Microsoft's Xbox support a few days after the console ships.