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X-Box design ‘complete’ – MS demos microbrowser, set top box

And some dates for your diary

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A few dates and figures escaped from Microsoft's briefing for financial analysts yesterday, which largely returned to recent presentations. But Whistler will be called Windows 2000 Consumer, and a beta is promised "soon"; the Windows 2000 DataCenter will ship on August 11; the delayed Windows 2000 Service Pack on August 1; and the X-Box SDK was made available for download. We presume by invitation only, as we couldn't find it on the X-Box site. More from us on Whistler later today.

The consumer division showed off the Thomson, Philips, Microsoft TV set-top box, which Gates referred to last Comdex. It has two digital tuners and will be able to save over 35 hours of broadcast date from "any data type".

Thomson is also involved in the X-Box, contributing DVD and intellectual property. The X-Box is beginning to look like a very big spend indeed for Microsoft, has apparently already financed NVidia to the tune of $200m to create a new graphics processor for the console, which will be manufactured by Flextronix. Senior VP of the Microsoft's games division Robbie Bach said that the hardware design was complete and the 30 games were in development. "Retailers want a 'balance in the ecosystem' - it drives a lot of traffic."

But neither of the wireless appliance demos went as smoothly as the now familiar X-Box demo. A Sony GSM smartphone was brandished on the stage, but this turned out to be a mock-up only. A demo using Compaq's new "Windows Powered" handheld which was intended to show how real web sites could be viewed on the small screen was terminated when the browser crashed (the demonstrator blamed the 802.11 wireless network), and the speech dictation system discarded a dictated memo. Both applications have been bought in, from British companies STNC and Entropic respectively, so both clearly need more integration. ®

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