Each year, the Consumer Electronics Show is used as a forum for companies to show off the hottest products of tomorrow. One mainstay of the show that's always good for an industry-shaking announcement or two is software giant Microsoft. The company's chief, Bill Gates, always maintains a large presence at the show, and this year was no different.
In an interview with tech blog Engadget, Gates talked about the widespread shortages of available Xbox 360s in North America, echoing words spoken by Peter Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's entertainment division.
"The demand was phenomenal, and we did add Celestica as a third manufacturing partner," Gates said. "We think by the time we get to the 4.5 to 5.5 million unit level [in June] that the backlog won't be all that substantial. So obviously it's a good news situation, but we want to meet all the demand."
Despite what some would call a "shaky" launch, Gates remains chipper about the Xbox 360's first 50 days. "Well, you know, we're already successful. I mean, we're the hottest product there was at Christmas this year. I don't think there's any doubt we'll have a substantially higher share in this generation than we had last generation."
Obviously, the console's "substantially higher share" is largely dependent on its software library, and no other title will push more 360s out the door than Halo 3. At 2005's E3, Gates was quoted by Time magazine as saying that Halo 3 would be released at the same time as Sony's PlayStation 3, which is due later this year. Execs at Microsoft and developers at Bungie both scratched their heads at the statement, with Microsoft's president of the entertainment and devices division, Robbie Bach, bluntly saying, "Halo 3 is something that we'll ship when it's ready."
Gates admitted that his statement may have been premature. "It's up to the team [at Bungie] when they want to ship [Halo 3], and they're going to take their time to make that a super great product," Gates told Engadget. "So even we don't know when that will come out." Gates' comments already have industry pundits predicting that the game will likely now launch either in November, as have previous Halos, or around the premiere of the Halo movie in summer 2007.
With gaming consoles on the verge of transforming into "must-have" multimedia powerhouses, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 have made it known that their aim is to appeal to a broader audience.
"This is a business we're committed to, so we're just going to keep doing our best. We actually think the size of the market will grow quite a bit because of the idea that we've got music and photo capability, we've got this Arcade thing to appeal to different age groups, and we're going to get a better breadth of games this time, so we think the overall total units between us and our competitor will actually be quite a bit bigger this time around than it was last time, and that's good for all of us," said Gates.
As for the PS3's launch, Gates sees Sony having similar issues that hung over the debut of the 360. "[Sony] will have a year where they're supply-constrained, most likely, unless the thing is a complete flop. I mean, every video game [system] that [sells] decently at all is supply-constrained for its first year," Gates told USA Today. "We'll actually have shipped over 5 million [Xbox 360s] before anyone else comes into the market."