Speaking in an interview with Japanese journalists, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has pinned down 2006 as the year when a successor to the Xbox will be released – a time frame which could see Xbox 2 being the last of the next generation consoles to appear.
Ballmer acknowledged that sales of the Xbox in Japan have been sluggish (it’d take quite a poker face to claim otherwise, after all), but stated that Microsoft would stick to its long term goals in the region.
It’s not clear from Ballmer’s comments whether 2006 is the Japanese date for the launch, with Xbox 2 (or Xbox Next, as some sources claim Microsoft is calling the system) arriving earlier in the USA and possibly Europe. Bear in mind that the Xbox launched in 2001 in the USA, and in early 2002 in Europe and Japan.
However, if the 2006 date holds for all territories, this could put Microsoft on the back foot once again in terms of release dates. Nintendo’s N5 is widely expected to arrive in late 2005, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 should also hit a 2005 date, in Japan at least – although there are concerns over the volume in which the CELL microprocessor can be produced before Sony’s Nagasaki Prefecture fabrication plant for the unit comes online. If the volume is low, release dates overseas could well be pushed back.