That new Xbox for 2010 … real or fake news?

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Opinion – It appears that there has been a lot of chatter about what Steve Ballmer told an audience of 1500 Chicago executives yesterday at a luncheon of The Executives Club of Chicago. Ballmer mentioned a new Xbox for 2010. Whether it will be a new SKU or a Project Natal-equipped device, we have no idea. What we do know, however, that it is too early to speculate. Any such speculation should be taken with with a grain of salt at this time.

So, you don’t expect anything dramatic to happen when you report on a brief note from an executive about a new product, especially if it is just an announcement note and then you are suddenly confronted with rumors and speculations that clearly get out of hand.

We are grateful that our colleagues at Cnet, PC World and some smaller outlets such as Escapist Magazine are picking up our stories but I would just wish they would leave the stories as they are and not add more speculation than is necessary and I just don’t appreciate being lectured by those who have to speculate. I am talking about the Global Leaders luncheon with Steve Ballmer yesterday in Chicago, during which the executive announced “a new Xbox for 2010.” There was no further detail other than an integrated camera, which could point to a new SKU or simply the recently introduced Project Natal device – yes, Keane, that news also has landed here and we are not living under a rock in the middle of some corn field in Illinois.

Ballmer did not elaborate on this device, while he did talk quite a bit about a natural user interface that would recognize touch, voice and looks. And that technology is very, very close to being released, apparently, at least according to Ballmer. And, in the light of his preceding statement, I would be comfortable saying that this referred to the 2010 date.

In this view, I would have to disagree with Major Nelson’s post from yesterday:

“To clarify what Steve said earlier today....
A few people have emailed me regarding something Steve Ballmer said earlier today about a new Xbox coming in 2010. 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.”

Sorry, guys, this one did slip out. Dear Major, I have no idea why there needs to always be a strategy to indicate someone made up a story simply because the story was not created in a corporate communications meeting.

This whole event seems to resemble a story from last year, when we reported that the “next” Photoshop would be called Photoshop CS4 and that it will have GPU-accelerated software components, based on statements made at an event. We were accused of the same made-up-story crap, excuse my choice of words here, by Adobe back then as were accused by Microsoft now. Back then, we were chastised by Adobe, Photoshop enthusiasts and other media and in the end it turned out that we were 100% on target.

If Steve Ballmer was not entirely delusional yesterday (it was a hot, humid day in Chicago yesterday, though), then we will see a major Xbox announcement in 2010. I’d actually like to ask Major Nelsen to check with Steve Ballmer what was said and what not, since I believe Major Nelson was not present at the event. I triple-checked with a few friends who were sitting in the audience as well and it seemed pretty clear to them that a new Xbox is coming in 2010, after what Ballmer had said. But then, yes, it was a hot, humid day and we all may have been a bit delusional during an admittedly fantastic lunch.

My take-away from the Xbox 360 news yesterday? Don’t get too hung up on whether it is a new casing for the Xbox 360 or a major add-on. Perhaps Ballmer referred to an entirely new Xbox. Perhaps he referred to Natal. However, even if he only referred to Natal – and this would be an interesting hiccup for Ballmer - it is a new approach, an evolution of the Xbox 360. And that evolution may be so significant that it does change the user scenario for the device. What that will be, however, I leave up to you and the speculation of some of my colleagues. What you now know, however, is that Microsoft is planning something major for the Xbox platform next year.

Not more and not less.