There’s been plenty of speculation this year as to when the next Xbox might be released, so here’s some unexpected news: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today announced that the Xbox 360 would be officially launched in Israel later this month… a whole seven years after the console first became available.

Ballmer was in Israel yesterday on a whistlestop tour of Tel Aviv, and he revealed the news that the Xbox 360, Xbox Live and Kinect would finally be officially available in the country on November 21st – one day before the Xbox 360′s seventh birthday. The console was previously only available as a grey import in the country, with the online Xbox Live service completely unavailable unless users created an account with details that made them appear to be based in a country that supported it.

The Next Web is in Israel for Microsoft’s Think Next event, but Ballmer made the announcement at another show earlier in the day, which was reported on in Hebrew by Israeli tech news site Newsgeek.

The long overdue launch is tinged with irony as the Kinect camera, which gave the Xbox 360 a renewed lease of life when it launched in 2010, is based on technology developed in Israel.

Rightsholder issues around making media available via Xbox Live may have been one contributory factor in the long wait for an official launch. Online media rights aren’t well developed in Israel. Despite the huge amount of technological innovation that takes place in this small country, the population is yet to get access to streaming services like Spotify and Netflix. Even Apple’s iTunes Store only sells apps in Israel, no music, movies or TV shows. According to a Hebrew language report last month from Newsgeek, which broke news of the move, it appears that Microsoft has secured some local content deals to support the launch.

Whatever the reason behind the console’s belated appearance in Israel, gamers there can finally get an officially sanctioned dose of Xbox excitement this month. For everyone else, it can probably be taken as a sign that Microsoft still sees plenty of life in its long-serving games machine yet.

Image credit: David Paul Watkins / Getty Images 

Microsoft paid for The Next Web’s trip to Think Next but has no influence at all over anything we publish.