Ballmer says new Xbox – what does he mean?

steve ballmer - all that nerdy stuff

Is a New Xbox Coming, and is it Xbox 360 Natal?

Has it ever occurred to anyone else that Steve Ballmer is in fact the monster from Young Frankenstein? If you ever wondered what the hell became of the creature after the end of the movie, you have your answer: He became CEO of Microsoft. Go figure.

All kidding aside, though, the esteemed and reviled (depending on which side of the fence you’re standing on) CEO openly discussed that a brand new Xbox 360 is coming in 2010, sporting a new interface, yada yada yada. Point is, what the man’s obviously getting at is a new 360 SKU and configuration that includes the Natal device as a standard part of the package, shipped with every unit. This fits in nicely with the recent rumors that Microsoft would be releasing a new Xbox next year, though there remains no reason to believe we’ll be getting an “Xbox 420” configuration anytime soon.  Perhaps, though, we will be getting Xbox 360 Natal.

Instead, what he probably means is that we’ll get a new version of the 360 that changes form factor, effectively “reinventing” itself while (hopefully) eliminating the problems of the previous 360 model and shrugging off some of it’s “Cool but flaky” image. No doubt Microsoft would rather have it’s game console thought of as merely “Cool” or even “The coolest!” rather than have to drag along the flaky moniker, but we’ll just have to see what happens with it.

Suffice to say, nothing in the universe will stop us from speculating wildly about what the new Xbox 360 SKU/Configuration will entail when it finally launches next yearm and we encourage you to do the same! Rumored Xbox 360 Natal design ideas below!

Here’s what I’m imagining for the new Xbox 360 configuration. Every item below is based on what we know about next year’s 360 GPU/CPU die shrink/consolidation, the recent move to and subsequent increase of flash memory on the 360 Arcade, and other juicy rumormongering from various sources:

1) Xbox 360 Slim revision, cooler, smaller, quieter, sleeker.

2) Onboard flash memory in every unit, 16GB would work well, seem impressive and be dirt cheap to implement.

3) No hard drive included, but a slot for a standard laptop SATA hard drive

4) Wireless 360 pad in every box

5) Natal in every box

6) Hardware specs otherwise identical to current 360

7)$249 or less, base configuration

Running with something like this, and featuring a big enough marketing push, would virtually guarantee a massive surge in 360 sales and hype.  It would expand the platform’s installed base and more importantly, MIND share. Assuming Xbox 360 Natal in Addon form hits market for $99 or less at the same time we should also see a lot of existing 360 owners jump for the upgrade.

Nintendo already proved that its SD graphics, just barely above what last generation offered, were adequate to win over the majority of the market. And let’s face it, Hardcore gamers bought Wii first, evangelized it, and the casuals jumped onboard as a direct result of the hardcore gamers going crazy on Wii early on. That being the case, 360’s HD graphics are easily STILL more than plenty for the majority of the market. Since 360 is equal to PS3 in terms of graphics capability that pretty much cinches the race, at least as far as HD games consoles goes.

The question in my mind is, will Xbox 360 Natal be enough for MS to catch Wii? I honestly don’t know.

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