Microsoft has revealed via its Windows blog that it’s preparing to launch a PC-specific Kinect camera peripheral early next year. The new Kinect will launch as part of the Kinect for Windows commercial program, and the camera’s firmware will feature a new “near mode,” enabling the device to keep track of objects as close as 50 centimeters away, “with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters.”

That’s a whole lot better than the Xbox 360 version of Kinect, which has difficulty tracking players if they’re too close in a tightly packed living room.  It’s not clear if the “near mode” will be brought over to the 360 version with a later update, but we sure hope so.

The PC Kinect will also come with a shorter USB cable, and a small dongle to “improve coexistence with other USB peripherals.”