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Christmas goodies unveiled

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Today Microsoft revealed a wealth of consumer products intended for release in the run up to Christmas. The company has produced a range of new hardware and software, ranging from PC gaming add ons, like the Sidewinder Dual Strike control, to reference material, like the new version of Encarta, or Works Suite 2000. On the hardware side, you can look forward to the launches of the following: There are new keyboards due out in October and November 1999. The ergonomically designed version of the Internet Keyboard Pro and the standard Internet Keyboard in October, followed by the traditional style Internet Keyboard Pro a month later. Prices are expected to be £49.99, £24.99 and £39.99 respectively. Designed for the not so serious PC gamers is the Sidewinder control. It is a combination of mouse and keyboard, designed to make it easier to learn first and third person action games - such as Quake or Tombraider. The company is also launching several joysticks that look like pieces of the set from Alien 3. The sidewinder is launching in October at an RRP of £49.99. Microsoft has developed an optical sensor mouse. The Intellimouse explorer has a sensor that scans a surface 1500 times per second, and uses the data - generated by a digital signal processor - to calculate its position. It will also be launched in October 1999, at an RRP of £49.99. On the software side, the products ranged from the silly to the practical and educational. One game featured was Age of Empires II – a smartened up and bigger version of the original game, with new scenarios starting at the fall of the Roman Empire. The AI has been reprogrammed to make playing the computer more difficult, and each enemy army has different characteristics to extend game time, and force more strategic play. Out on 29 October at an RRP of £39.99. In the more immediate future, Microsoft's first version of Link LS Golf games is out this month, as is International Football, Baseball 2000, and the Close Combat Trilogy. These should retail for between £19.99 and £34.99. The Flight Simulator 2000 is scheduled for launch in late November, along with Flight Simulator 2000 Professional Edition. These will sell for £49.99 and £69.99 respectively. Not feeling so frivolous? The new Encarta package - Encarta Reference Suite 2000 - is out at the end of September. The package includes the World English Dictionary, and a £40 rebate on old copies of the product. It is expected to sell at around £99.00, but components - such as the Interactive Atlas or MapPoint 2000 - can be bought separately. And for the truly serious, Microsoft Works Suite 2000. This is due to be launched in October 1999 at around £120. ®

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