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Tapwave Zodiac to ship 22 October

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Tapwave's Palm OS-based games console, Zodiac, will go on sale in the UK on 22 October 2004, the company said today, following its formal launch this past September.

Availability will be limited to Dixons Stores Group outlets, including Dixons and PC World, with whom Tapwave has signed an exclusive contract.

DSG stores will be retailing both versions of the console - the 32MB Zodiac 1 and the 128MB Zodiac 2 - along with at least six £30 game cards. Initial titles include Doom 2, Duke Nukem Mobile, Spyhunter, Tony Hawks Pro Skater and a pair a multi-game packs containing Galactic Realms and Legacy, and Paintball, MegaBowling and Kickoo's Breakout, respectively.

The two versions of the hardware will retail for £270 and £330.

Both Zodiacs sport a 3.8in, 480 x 320 colour display, and built-in stereo speakers driven by a custom Yamaha sound chip. The handhelds are based on a Motorola ARM-compatible MX1 processor and an ATI Imageon 2D graphics accelerator. Expansion comes courtesy of a pair of SD card slots, either or both of which can be used for game cards.

The device also features Bluetooth for multi-player gaming and connecting it to a mobile phone for web browsing and text messaging.

Tapwave's UK launch date comes exactly a week before Gizmondo launches its handheld console, also called Gizmondo. Like Zodiac, the Gizmondo device offers PIM and messaging features, and includes Bluetooth. But it also provides direct GPRS connectivity to mobile phone networks and includes GPS satellite positioning. It's based on Windows CE and features a smaller, 2.8in display. Its graphics come courtesy of Nvidia's GoForce 4500 3D acceleration chip.

Both are likely to have a very short time before facing Nintendo's latest, the DS. While a UK launch date has yet to be confirmed, with the US roll-out taking place on 21 November and in Japan on 2 December, Europe can't be far behind. ®

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