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Microsoft's X-Box PlayStation 2 killer spec. leaks out

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Microsoft's entry into the games console-cum-internet appliance market, codenamed X-Box, has made another appearance in the rumour channel, this time courtesy of a leak to UK games publishing trade title MCV. Like most X-Box scuttlebutt, the various elements of the leaked spec. are tantalisingly plausible -- bloody obvious, if you think about it, possibly too obvious -- but too vague to draw any real conclusions. According to the report, we're looking at machine with DVD drive, 56kbps modem, "up to" 1GHz CPU, 64MB of RAM, 4GB hard drive and "Windows-derived OS". In other words, it's a low-end PC with a high-end chip. Curiously, the spec. doesn't include a 3D accelerator. In previous reports, Nvidia's GeForce 256 was said to be the candidate. And back then, during last autumn, the machine was said to sport a 500MHz CPU. One other interesting extra detail: the target price is said to be $149. So does this get us anywhere nearer to Microsoft's plans? Not really. Given the kind of products X-Box will have to compete with and at what kind of price point, anyone and their dog could have come up with such a broad-line specification and have a reasonable chance of getting it (equally broadly) right. It's rather like saying Rover's closely-guarded successor to the Mini will have four wheels, an engine, a compact body and a boot. With a prediction like that you're going to hit the nail on the head. What it does suggest, however, is that X-Box is a moveable feast and that the spec. won't be finalised until it gets darn closer to production -- if it ever does. It's still not known whether Microsoft would offer X-Box as a reference platform for PC vendors to use, or would sell it exclusively under its own name. It's not even clear whether the device is anything more than a PlayStation 2 stalking horse, or just a potential that Microsoft is touting to see what the reaction is. Bill Gates was rumoured to have signed off the X-Box spec. just before Christmas 1999, with the planned unveiling to take place early January 2000 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Needless to say, X-Box failed to turn up. Late last month, Paul Whipp, a producer at Virgin Interactive, told Total Games Network, the X-Box could blow the PlayStation 2 out of the water if Microsoft put their whole weight behind the console. You'll note the 'if'. In any case, we still prefer Computer Exchange's cheeky X-Box concept design. They've got it spot on, we reckon... ®

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