Taking the center stage during what will supposedly be Microsoft's last keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company's CEO Steve Ballmer officially announced to those in attendance that the Kinect for Windows will be available for purchase from select retailers beginning February 1st.

Microsoft sold large volumes of the device over the festive period, totaling around 18 million Xbox Kinects shipped worldwide in the last year. The company also has the Guinness World Record for the fastest selling gaming peripheral. Considering its sales success and all the interest it received from the developer and hacking community, it comes as no surprise that Microsoft is releasing a Windows version.

You won't need to wait long either, as it is now available for pre-order at Amazon for $249.99. That said, the price is rather high given that the Xbox labeled unit can be had for around half that amount.

The device features Near Mode, ushering in "a whole new class of close up applications beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360." It has received further tweaks enabling it to see objects as close as 50cm without losing accuracy or precision, as well as various firmware changes. Very little information is available about those other changes but they are likely designed to take advantage of the closer proximity the unit will have to computer users sitting at a desk.

Despite the Xbox version of the Kinect working just fine with Windows computers, the new model is labeled as "PC optimized - not for use with Xbox 360." It will be interesting to find out just how accurate that is given that those with computers and Xbox's will be keen to use one device for both systems.