Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corp., has been granting a series of interviews, both at a Seattle business writers conference and at last week's Microsoft WinHEC technical summit, in preparation for the upcoming unveiling of his company's successor to the Xbox game console.
Among the topics Gates shed light on were the planned multimedia capabilities of the system, the possibility of an Xbox handheld, and how the company has learned from the first Xbox.
The longest of these exclusive interviews was conducted by Peter Rojas of technology weblog Engadget. In response to a question about which audience the next-generation Xbox will be aimed at, Gates says "We’re new to the industry so people naturally didn’t know if we were hardcore committed to the thing. We’ve really gotten over that now and so it’s been a lot easier this time around, but we want to broaden video gaming, and without giving up any of the hardcore players we want more women, older people."
The subject of how far the next-generation Xbox, codenamed Xenon until the release, will go in terms of media capabilities also surfaced and was addressed specifically. "Xenon itself will have some neat capabilities," Gates said, and noted in an address to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers that "when you use this Xenon you'll see a menu a lot like [the Media Center PC's] that lets you get photos, TV, music and all those different things."
However, Gates was firm both in the Engadget interview and elsewhere that the Xenon would be an extension of, not a replacement for, the Media Center PCs Microsoft has been pushing. "The high-end scenario for us is you’ve got Media Center PC, that’s where your state is, but then you’ve got your Xenon out that are connecting up to that." Gates also reinforced the fact that Microsoft had no plans to move into the handheld arena anytime soon: "Right now we don’t see a dedicated device on our road map."
The next-generation Xbox, likely to be named Xbox 360, and which Gates seemed to confirm in an offhand remark will be launched in 2005 (commenting: "What will the year of high-definition be? This year, because we're going to ship this next Xbox"), will be initially revealed in a special on MTV to be aired
on May 12th.