Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Fortune magazine that PS3's delayed November launch gives the 360 an obvious "timing advantage," assuming his company can get enough Xboxes manufactured to make a difference:

"In every other generation, the first guy to 10 million consoles was the number one seller in the generation," Ballmer told FORTUNE in an interview on Thursday afternoon. "Did we just get an even better opportunity to be the first guy to 10 million? Yeah, of course we did."

But Microsoft  will not formally revise its projected market share for the Xbox 360, and it will not speed up production to capitalize on Sony's delay, because it's already producing the Xbox as fast as possible. "We've been saying 'make them faster' before yesterday," says Ballmer.

...There is still a production bottleneck because of problems with a component vendor, whom Ballmer declined to name, but he expects Microsoft to sell 5 million systems by June. "We're sort-of on track," he says, "though it would've been nice at Christmas to have one for everyone who wanted one."

Ballmer goes on to downplay the Blu-Ray-HD-DVD question. Fortune says the full interview will be featured in their March 23 issue, although there's no indication that he has more to say about the console wars. (I have a soft spot for Steve Ballmer because he personally returned my cousin's car keys to her house after she lost them at a Fourth of July parade—my closest brush with a billonaire).

It's common sense that a one year headstart has it's advantages, but how big an advantage? Especially if gamers can't get their mitts on the product? And does anybody care to divulge the name of the vendor whose incompetence is threatening the prospects of our favorite console?

[Thanks, untitled]

Update: Chris reminded me that the bottleneck in question is due to the Infineon GDDR3 Ram manufactured in Germany, a fact which I have written about before. Duh. See this post for more.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

Of shortages and small numbers