Many people, including myself, scoffed when reading this article over at that hypothesized a new Xbox console would be coming along with the Project Natal motion sensing technology as soon as next year. 

On this week’s Listen Up podcast we discussed Natal, and David Ellis and I talked about what we’ve been hearing regarding the new technology — and how it’s actually the cornerstone of Microsoft’s next evolution of the Xbox. Microsoft will not only release Natal as an add-on for the Xbox 360, it will come standard with the next Xbox console.

Yes, there will be a new Xbox console next fall.

However, the new console won’t just be an Xbox 360 with a camera, though — we’ve heard it will be considered a new platform and carry a new name (Xbox Natal?). It’s not clear what sort of upgrades we might see, but some have suggested it will be an slight upgrade of the current Xbox 360 technology. Current Xbox 360 games would be playable on it, but future games would be able to take advantage of the added muscle. Similar to what we see in the PC space, games played on the more advanced Xbox would look or perform better, but publishers will still be able to support owners of both systems. Some developers have complained that they’ve already maxed out the Xbox 360; perhaps this will give them room to expand.

Well people, it’s time to eat some crow.  Steve Ballmer dropped the bomb on the attendees at the Executive Club in Chicago:

Rumors can be confirmed, as Ballmer stated openly during a speech on the recession to those in attendance at the Executives Club in Chicago, a new Xbox 360 will hit the store shelves in 2010.

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.

Pretty much official: new Xbox coming in 2010 - General Tech 2
Current Xbox 360 with Natal camera

That is indeed some juicy news!  This presents a couple of questions though – how much different will this “new” console be compared to the current generation Xbox 360?  What other features will it include?  Will the internal hardware remain the same?  My first new guess is that the internals will be similar in terms of processing power or at the very least the components will see only minor upgrades.  Microsoft has a lot of happy customers as it is and simply alienating them with a completely new set of hardware would be unlikely.

Also, if Natal is the key new component to this new Xbox console, will it still be made available to current Xbox 360 owners?  If so, will that make the “new” console nothing more than an Xbox 360 with a fancy pack-in accessory?

There are lots of questions and we are looking forward to getting the answers!!