Microsoft Explains Away Steve Ballmer's "New Xbox" Comments


Posted June 19, 2009 - By Jake Gaskill

Rumors About A New Xbox 360 Have Been Refuted And RevisedYou have probably heard by now that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested in a speech yesterday that a new Xbox 360 SKU with built-in Project Natal support will be released next year. Aside from causing every Microsoft PR rep to scream simultaneously, the news caused quite a stir, especially among the Xbox faithful.

Well, Microsoft has since commented on the issue, stating that Ballmer didn’t know what he was talking about (What CEO does? Am I right, people?), and that he wasn’t referring  to a new Xbox, but rather Project Natal (which seems like a weird thing to say, considering Ballmer was apparently talking about a console, not a separate device, and I would hope Ballmer knows the difference).

Microsoft’s Major Nelson posted about the incident on his website, saying:

“As the Xbox team stated at E3 two weeks ago, we are not even halfway through the current console generation lifecycle and believe Xbox 360 will be the entertainment center in the home for long into the next decade.  Project Natal will be an important part of this platform, but we have not confirmed a launch date at this time.”
And Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg told Kotaku yesterday, “We’re not going to be launching a new console any time soon…I really believe he was speaking about Project Natal.”

First off, I thought it was rather clear that Ballmer wasn’t referring to Xbox 720. Given his mention of a built-in camera and a “natural interface,” a redesigned 360 is the obvious conclusion, and not a very surprising conclusion at that. Plus, Project Natal is said to work on all current and future 360, suggesting that the 360’s that are on the shelves today will still be available next year and beyond.

Now, Greenberg’s comments are a bit more interesting because he didn’t flat out say, “Ballmer was talking about Project Natal.” He said he “really believed” he was. You’d think this would be something that a Microsoft representative would be able to find out for sure, rather than having to speculate about. Also, unless TGDaily mistakenly used the word “console” (they also referred to the mystery product as a “device”), I find it bizarre that Microsoft would say that Ballmer was talking about Project Natal, which is supposedly just a camera peripheral (filled with all sorts of other fancy technology as well), if he used the word “console” in his speech.

On the other hand, it could just be that Ballmer was the one who incorrectly used the term “console” when talking about Natal. While I think it’s still a very solid bet that Microsoft will introduce a redesigned 360 with built-in Natal support (and flashes of a prototype were surely dancing in Ballmer’s head during his speech), I think this whole mess was the result of Ballmer being unsatisfactorily briefed on Natal in terms of how to refer to it.

Either that, or Microsoft hasn’t figured out a good way to describe Natal, which I can understand, given that’s it’s more than a camera but less than a full console. (It also probably didn't help Ballmer that Microsoft's Shane Kim said last week the Project Natal release would "conceptually rival" the launch of Xbox 360.) Hopefully, Microsoft puts out a glossary of ways to discuss their gaming products soon, so that we can avoid situations like this in the future.

What's your take on this whole thing?

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Microsoft Explains Away Steve Ballmer's "New Xbox" Comments


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