USA Today may have spilled the beans a few hours ahead of time, but Microsoft managed to keep the official name for Project Natal under wraps for about as long as you could have expected. Is that because Microsoft didn't actually decide on the name until very recently? Here's my evidence.
As the masses confusingly walked out of the packed Kinect event (exiting required walking down stretches of dark hallways, prompting my girlfriend to nearly topple over actor Michael Cera -- a total accident, I'm sure), Microsoft quickly handed out a series of goodies to attendants.
One was a wristband USB stick, for all those times you need a USB stick...on your wrist.
The other handout was a stuffed animal promoting "Project Natal Animals."
Er, what? Didn't Microsoft just spend untold millions revealing Kinect to the world? Why would the first piece of promotional swag Microsoft distributes to press, colleagues and celebrities (I also spotted Christina Hendricks) be branded with the old name? Even stranger, Project Natal is all over the swag's instructions tag (explaining how to download a free animal in Kinectimals later this year), while the animal itself is branded with a giant purple K, straight from the updated name.
The disconnect suggests Kinect is a recent decision by Microsoft, recent enough to create branding confusion on their first piece of marketing material for arguably the company's biggest product launch during 2010. It's a small issue, though. Kinect is officially here. Project Natal is no more.