Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 10:42 p.m.
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Xbox users will soon be able to abandon their controllers and manipulate games with natural body movements, thanks to one of Microsoft’s new products for 2010, the company announced on eve of the Consumer Electronics Show.
Microsoft’s heavily-anticipated Project Natal will go on sale for Christmas, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment devices division said on Wednesday.
Natal is an add-on to Xbox 360 that works with a motion sensor, allowing gamers to control the action with their natural body movements.
“With Project Natal we are removing the last barrier to gaming — the controller — freeing you to have the experience you want with technology that’s natural for you,” Bach said.
Bach said the next installment of Microsoft’s cult-favorite Halo series, Halo Reach, will be available in the fall, and a beta version will be released to Xbox users this spring.
“This is going to be the biggest year ever for Xbox,” Bach said.
Bach also detailed several other several major Xbox 360 releases for 2010, including Mass Effect 2, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, Fable III, Crackdown 2, an expansion pack for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Alan Wake, Microsoft’s new game and storyline.
More than 30 retro games will be released on Xbox Live during the coming year in a new application called Game Room, a virtual arcade where gamers can compete against other players.
But new products for Microsoft this year pretty much ended on the gaming front. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer spent most of his keynote address recapping what he called the company’s most successful year ever.
His speech, however, fell victim to a few technical glitches.
Just before Ballmer was set to begin his keynote, power went out on most of the stage at the Las Vegas Hilton Center, forcing the crew to shut down and reboot. The mishap started a firestorm of tweets and comments from bloggers about the irony of the technical difficulty and references to Windows’ infamous error screen.
“2009 really was a year of unprecedented economic turbulence,” Ballmer said in his opening remarks. “The thing that excited me the most is our industry stayed focused and worked hard to bring new technology to the market place.”
Ballmer painted the picture of a strong year for Microsoft, thanks to the launch of Windows 7.
Ballmer called Windows 7 Microsoft’s fastest-selling operating system to date, noting sales jumped 50 percent the week it launched and said 94 percent of early adopters were satisfied with the product.
Ballmer credited the success of the product to Microsoft’s user feedback, which it has displayed in its commercials. Windows 7 had more than 800,000 beta testers, Ballmer said.
“Windows 7 is a rising tide that has helped raise many boats in our industry this year,” Ballmer said.
Ballmer showed off several Windows 7 products, including TVs, new PCs and a handful of tablet computers, including ones from Pegatron, Archos and HP.
There was no sign of Microsoft’s rumored Courier tablet computer, which many tech publications have been talking about in their pre-CES coverage. Microsoft’s competitor Apple is expected to introduce its own tablet computer later this month.
Ballmer also made mention of new developments with Microsoft’s in-vehicle technology, Sync, but he said he would let Ford President and Chief Executive Alan Mulally provide the details.
Mulally is set to give the CES opening-day keynote address Thursday morning before the show’s official opening. The CES exhibit floor will open at 10 a.m. Thursday.