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X-Box to ship fall 2001, nuke Sony, Nintendo et al

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With Bill Gates' attendance at next month's Games Developers' Conference now confirmed (and Microsoft having registered the xbox.com domain, apparently; x-box.com having being snapped up by some crafty Germans) we shouldn't have to wait too long to find out whether the much-rumoured specifications for Microsoft's X-Box PlayStation killer are correct. Veteran IT pundit John D Dvorak, writing for Forbes put in his tuppence worth this week in true "my sources tell me..." style. Dvorak's deep throat trotted out the now standard line: high-speed x86 CPU (a 600MHz Athlon, according to the sources), 3D accelerator chip, DVD drive, game controller and hard disk. That's pretty much what we've read everywhere else. However, a couple of interesting points emerge. First, Dvorak's mole reckons the scheduled release date is Q3 2001, a year after the PlayStation 2's US launch, but right bang on target as far as Nintendo's Dolphin is due to hit the streets. Second, the sources point to Windows 2000 -- or, rather, a cut down, game-optimised version of it -- as the host OS. Microsoft's began developing 'embedded NT' a little while back, and with products like X-Box in mind, that concept begins to make sense. Certainly more so than basing it on Win98-derived Millenium. Either way, Dvorak is sure that the Mighty Microsoft will triumph over Sony, Nintendo and Sega. Sega, almost certainly, given the way Dreamcast sales have been going, but Nintendo remains a wildcard, at least until some solid details about Dolphin's capability leak out. And Sony? Well, Dvorak, who's always had something of a downer on non-PC platforms, reckons it's for the chop too. We're less convinced. True, X-Box will almost certainly play PC games straight out of the box, but getting the price of a 600MHz PC, which is what X-Box is, down to console levels will be tricky, and it's going to have to offer something very special indeed if it's not to be seen as just another PC product. And, let's be honest, Microsoft is too dull a brand to cut it alongside the sexier console names. All we have to do now is wait until 10 March and Gates' GDF keynote to find out. ®

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