Is it Natal, or something more?

Ballmerâ??s ‘new Xbox’ speech puzzles onlookers

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has created further speculation that Microsoft will be delivering a new Xbox SKU in 2010 along with the release of its motion-sensing device, Project Natal.

Ballmer, speaking at the at The Executive’s Club of Chicago in Illinois, had reportedly confirmed that a new Xbox is set to arrive. Reporting on the speech was news site TG Daily, which wrote:

“Rumors can be confirmed, as Ballmer stated openly during a speech on the recession to those in attendance, a new Xbox 360 will hit the store shelves in 2010.”

However, the ‘new’ device will be equipped with technology that allows a “natural interface”, suggesting that Ballmer could in fact be talking about the inevitable Natal/360 bundle.

Rumours of a new Xbox to go with Natal had arisen way before Ballmer’s unintentionally cryptic speech. News site 1Up had previously suggested that a new Xbox console will launch in autumn 2010, though Microsoft had played down these rumours, though not in a satisfactory manner.

Aaron Greenberg told news site Eurogamer that “I can confirm that Natal will run on Xbox 360 so no new console investment will be necessary,” though again stepped away from categorical denial.

As a matter of practice, CEOs tend to avoid solid statements so that their futures are not outlined by the public and press. Speaking to MCV back in January, a Sony representative once said of the rumoured PSPgo:

“Clearly, being a quiet time of year, many, what we thought to be credible websites, are making up stories about PSP2, and how it allows you to teleport across the globe, travel through time, and will be powered by the horns of baby rhinoceroses.”

“Hopefully, you can sense a mild tone of sarcasm, which should hopefully indicate how ‘on the money’ IGN are. Needless to say, we don’t comment on rumour or speculation, but this is nonsense.”

Though a spectacular comment, it is a fine example of how companies downplay without categorically denying. A new PSP arrived several months after Sony’s quoted outburst.

An entire new Xbox console by 2010 – if ‘new’ is categorised by a CPU and GPU update – seems highly unlikely.

However, with Microsoft targeting a consumer that the current 360 is not built for, and indeed the company’s easy outlook on multi-SKUs, there is a real chance that a “casual-focused” 360 could come available.

Develop has contacted Microsoft for comment.

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