Microsoft's Kinect Is Under Pressure to Connect

Microsoft Corp. is betting a new product called Kinect will deliver a bigger audience for its Xbox 360 videogame console by letting people play games without a traditional controller.

But Kinect, when it goes on sale Thursday, will also be the most visible test in years of whether Microsoft can churn out breakout consumer products from its huge investment in research and development.

Microsoft faces increasing pressure from investors to show a payoff from those investments, which amounted to $8.7 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30–bigger than the R&D budget for any other tech company. Microsoft has poured a chunk of that money into improving existing products and services like its Bing search engine, as well as more traditional franchises like Windows and Office.

Kinect will be especially visible: an entirely new $150 device sold at retail outlets and aimed squarely at the consumer market, a field in which Microsoft has been more sluggish to respond to trends than Apple Inc. and other competitors.

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