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Bill Gates stalks Nintendo - again

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Bill Gates still wants to buy Nintendo, despite being turned down by majority shareholder Hiroshi Yamauchi a few years ago.

Speaking to German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche this week, Gates revealed he had maintained his interest in the console maker. And if Yamauchi - a former Nintendo president - gives him a call, "I will pick up at once" and make an offer for his shareholding.

Gates first made a play for Nintendo in the late 1990s. His bid was rejected, as was a similar attempt to acquire Sega. The failure to acquire either company is thought to have led Microsoft to develop its own console, Xbox.

Last week, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer admitted that the company was hard at work on Xbox's successor, but said that it will not announce any new console in 2005. Some observers suspect he was referring to Microsoft's fiscal year, which ends in June 2005, allowing the software giant to announce 'Xbox 2' sometime within calendar 2005.

Sony is expected to formally announced PlayStation 3 early next year, once it has begun shipping the PlayStation Portable.

Nintendo may have rejected Gates' ownership overtures, but it remains a fact that it too is working on a next-generation console and that, like Xbox 2, it is based on graphics technology from ATI and PowerPC processor(s) from IBM.

We've gone on record before to note our feeling that that two consoles might go further than share chip suppliers, and could even be the same box, pitched at slightly different markets. Nintendo wants to pursue younger gamers, while Microsoft has its eye on a broader home multimedia role for Xbox 2, which it appears to see as a kind of Media Center Jr. ®

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