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Halo 3 will ship when Bungie's ready - Bill Gates

Plus, 360 webcam due in 2006.

Bill Gates says he doesn't have any idea when Halo 3 will be released, claiming that it's up to Bungie.

The Microsoft chairman once commented that Sony would "walk right into Halo 3" when they launched PlayStation 3, drawing a lot of attention in the process. Former Xbox chief Robbie Bach had later claimed his comments were more "philosophical" in nature, but now it seems we have the real answer: it was "speculation", judging by Gates' reaction to the question posed by technology blog Engadget during the Consumer Electronics Show.

Asked whether Halo 3 would launch around the time of PS3, Gates replied, "No, I have to make sure that any speculation I did about that is -- it's up to the team when they want to ship that, and they're going to take their time to make that a super great product. So even we don't know when that will come out. That's one of many games that are just phenomenal that are in the works, but it's up to the artists to do it when they feel good about it."

Gates also had a couple of other 360-related comments for Engadget. He rejected suggestions that the introduction of an external HD-DVD drive would fragment the userbase, claiming, "There's no fragmentation here. The developers are creating games that run on the DVD-9 format that's in every Xbox, and whatever we do with the drive, they'll all be upwards compatible with that," and even going onto clarify the "whatever we do" comment by adding, "the HD-DVD is a peripheral, that's a nice option for our users".

He also spoke about the Xbox webcam, about which relatively little's been said in the last year. It'll launch in 2006, Gates said, "as well [as] some of the connections to the PC on the communication side so you can text message between PC and Xbox".

Finally, Gates said he expected "a substantially higher [market] share in this generation than we had last generation," and declined to speculate on how many units the 360 would sell beyond the 4.5 to 5.5 million Microsoft's hoping to do before the end of June.

On a related note, claims supposedly backed by a Financial Times article that Microsoft had dropped its previous 2.75 to 3 million unit shipment target for the first 90 days have been debunked; GameSpot made contact with the article's author who said that while Microsoft executive Peter Moore had dodged a direct question about it, he hadn't actually confirmed that the new target for June was a tacit admission of a failure to live up to the previous one.