UPDATED: Ballmer hints at next-gen Xbox console for 2010

Despite what CEOs of large game publishers might have you believe, we could see a Microsoft console launch before too long. According to TG Daily, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "stated openly" during a speech yesterday that "a new Xbox 360 will hit the store shelves in 2010."

Details seem thin at the moment, but the TG Daily folks jotted down the following details:

The new device will be equipped with technology that is "really, really, close" to an actuality. The console, which was described as having a "natural interface," will have a built in camera with the ability to recognize movement and voice.

This "natural interface" might well be Natal, a controller-free technology Microsoft discussed publicly last week. Back then, according to 1UP, Microsoft Corporate VP Shane Kim said the technology's launch would be as big as that of a new console.

1UP added that Natal will be available both for the current Xbox 360 and for a next-gen successor. That successor could be a "slight upgrade of the current Xbox 360 technology"—a bit like the Wii, which isn't much more than an improved GameCube at the hardware level. (Thanks to Shacknews for the link.)

Update: Shacknews points to this Kotaku report, which quotes a rather different statement from Xbox Product Management Director Aaron Goldberg: "There will be no new console." Goldberg also stated, "I really believe [Ballmer] was speaking about Project Natal," and he gave a rough idea of Microsoft's roadmap by adding, "We're barely halfway through this generation." So much for that.

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