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By Carl Howe

Colin Sebastian at Lazard Capital Markets has warned that he expects Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) XBox 360 shipments to only total 4.5 million for the year, instead of the 5 million expected. That says to me that the XBox 360 marketing plan is fading fast.

xbox 360
The XBox 360 Core System

Why? People forget that the original projection for XBox 360 sales was for 5.5 to 6 million within six months of launch. That projection was re-iterated in January this year, but extended out to 5.5 million by July. And now, we're looking at 4.5 million for the year. Ouch.

We'll know more after Microsoft announces earnings tomorrow. But many analysts were originally projecting that there would be 8 or 9 million XBox 360s in the market before Playstation ever launched. If these numbers are correct, it says that sales aren't living up to projections. And with two new competing consoles launching next month, this story isn't going to improve a lot without a serious marketing push to compete. Suddenly, that one-year lead Microsoft had on Sony (NYSE:SNE) doesn't look like such a big advantage after all.