The Consumer Electronics Show has confirmed that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is set to give a pre-show keynote speech in Las Vegas on January 5th next year - with a public announcement of Xbox 2 widely expected.
Gates will speak on Wednesday, January 5th at 6.30pm PST, the night before the opening of the CES event - which is the largest trade show of any description in North America, and is expected to attract 130,000 professionals from 110 countries over its three-day span.
The Xbox 2 announcement, which was originally rumoured to be planned for the Game Developer's Conference earlier this year, is now hotly tipped to feature in Gates' keynote, after the GDC announcement turned out to be regarding Microsoft's XNA development platform.
Gates has always taken a direct interest in the Xbox project, and originally planned to announce Microsoft's entry into the console market in his CES keynote in 2000; the announcement was ultimately delayed to the Game Developers Conference that year, but Gates used his CES keynote a year later to show off a near-final design for the system and exhibit early game software, including Munch's Oddysee and Malice, for the first time.
Many of Microsoft's key game development partners already have early versions of Xbox 2 development hardware, with the platform - codenamed Xenon - thought to be based on a multi-processor design using IBM's Power5 CPU architecture and ATI's next-generation Radeon graphics unit.