We’re thrilled at the sales we’ve seen for Kinect – 18 million sold in the past year – and we were honored to receive a Guinness World Record for the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever. As consumers, we may take devices like Kinect for granted, but in fact electronic devices are the fruit of a great deal of behind-the-scenes ingenuity and experimentation. Kinect is a shining example of this. Instead of mimicking the handheld motion-sensing controllers already on the market, Microsoft shattered the existing controller paradigm by inventing a new natural user interface system that enables advanced human tracking, gesture recognition, voice control and more. Our answer to the “wand” controller was no controller at all, or as we say, “YOU are the controller.”
Getting there wasn’t easy. Without many years of intense R&D efforts, including research investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, and the deep partnership between our research teams, software teams, hardware teams, manufacturing teams, and games studios, Kinect simply wouldn’t exist. And as amazing a piece of hardware as Kinect is, it is much more than that. At the heart of the Kinect experience lies sophisticated software that meaningfully deciphers the images and gestures captured by the 3D sensor as well as the voice commands captured by the microphone array from someone much further away than someone using a headset or a phone. More importantly, Kinect software can understand what each user means by a particular gesture or command across a wide range of possible shapes, sizes, and actions of real people.
The incredible amount of innovation on Kinect for Xbox 360 this past year shows the potential for Kinect as a platform for developers and businesses to build new and innovative offerings. Along with many others, we have only begun to explore the potential of this amazing technology. This proliferation of creative and imaginative new ideas for Kinect, which we call the Kinect Effect, will expand even further with our commercial release of Kinect for Windows.
Today, we are announcing that the new Kinect for Windows hardware and accompanying software will be available on February 1st, 2012 in 12 countries (United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom), at a suggested retail price of US $249. Kinect for Windows hardware will be available, in limited quantities at first, through a variety of resellers and distributors. The price includes a one-year warranty, access to ongoing software updates for both speech and human tracking, and our continued investment in Kinect for Windows-based software advancements. Later this year, we will offer special academic pricing (planned at US $149) for Qualified Educational Users.
We love the innovation we have seen built using Kinect for Xbox 360 – this has been a source of inspiration and delight for us and compelled us to create a team dedicated to serving this opportunity. We are proud to bring technology priced in the tens of thousands of dollars just a few years ago to the mainstream at extremely low consumer prices. And although Kinect for Windows is still value-priced for the technology, some will ask us why it isn’t the same price as Kinect for Xbox.
The ability to sell Kinect for Xbox 360 at its current price point is in large part subsidized by consumers buying a number of Kinect games, subscribing to Xbox LIVE, and making other transactions associated with the Xbox 360 ecosystem. In addition, the Kinect for Xbox 360 was built for and tested with the Xbox 360 console only, which is why it is not licensed for general commercial use, supported or under warranty when used on any other platform.
With Kinect for Windows, we are investing in creating a platform that is optimized for scenarios beyond the living room, and delivering new software features on an ongoing basis, starting with “near mode” (see my earlier blog post for more about this). In addition to support for Windows 7 and the Windows 8 developer preview (desktop apps only), Kinect for Windows will also support gesture and voice on Windows Embedded-based devices and will enhance how data is captured and accessed within intelligent systems across manufacturing, retail and many more industries. We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable.
We have chosen a hardware-only business model for Kinect for Windows, which means that we will not be charging for the SDK or the runtime; these will be available free to developers and end-users respectively. As an independent developer, IT manager, systems integrator, or ISV, you can innovate with confidence knowing that you will not pay license fees for the Kinect for Windows software or the ongoing software updates, and the Kinect for Windows hardware you and your customers use is supported by Microsoft.
Although we encourage all developers to understand and take advantage of the additional features and updates available with the new Kinect for Windows hardware and accompanying software, those developers using our SDK and the Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware may continue to use these in their development activities if they wish. However, non-commercial deployments using Kinect for Xbox 360 that were allowed using the beta SDK are not permitted with the newly released software. Non-commercial deployments using the new runtime and SDK will require the fully tested and supported Kinect for Windows hardware and software platform, just as commercial deployments do. Existing non-commercial deployments using our beta SDK may continue using the beta and the Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware; to accommodate this, we are extending the beta license for three more years, to June 16, 2016.
We expect that as Kinect for Windows hardware becomes readily available, developers will shift their development efforts to Kinect for Windows hardware in conjunction with the latest SDK and runtime. The combination of Kinect for Windows hardware and software creates a superior development platform for Windows and will yield a higher quality, better performing experience for end users.
We are excited for the new possibilities that Kinect will enable on the Windows platform, and to see how businesses and developers reimagine their processes and their products, and the many different ways each Kinect could enrich lives and make using technology more natural for everyone.
General Manager, Kinect for Windows