Learning from Sony, Microsoft unveils Xbox plans

Unable to produce Playstation 2 video game consoles in the heroic volumes consumers wanted, Sony disappointed its fans this Christmas. Microsoft is taking steps to avoid the same fate with its Xbox game console launch next year.

          Unable to produce Playstation 2 video game consoles in the heroic volumes consumers wanted, Sony disappointed its fans this Christmas. Microsoft is taking steps to avoid the same fate with its Xbox game console launch next year. Microsoft announced Friday that it is working with Flextronics International Ltd. to establish Xbox manufacturing facilities in Mexico for the North American market and Hungary for the European market.

          Microsoft confirmed plans to launch Xbox in North America and Japan in or around September of 2001 and in Europe in the first quarter of 2002, "carefully staging the rollout of Xbox so that demand can be met in each region." Microsoft said its long-term plan is to open a manufacturing facility in Asia to support markets in that region, including Japan.

          Xbox will be a game console-PC hybrid of sorts, with an 8G-byte hard drive, Pentium III processor, and Ethernet connectivity. Xbox will play DVD (digital versatile disc), as Playstation 2 does. In addition, Ravisent Technologies Inc. announced Wednesday that it had sealed a five-year agreement with Microsoft to provide DVD playback software for Xbox.

          Sony had initially expected to ship 1 million units at launch, but in late September announced it could only ship half that number by Oct. 26. It has since been supplying about 100,000 more units each week, making it virtually impossible for consumers who hadn't secured a console early to buy one at the $299 store price before Christmas.

          Xbox will be "competitively priced," but Microsoft marketing manager David Hufford would not reveal a specific price for the system, specific quantities available at launch or expected sales. But he said that Sony's shortfall was instructional. "We've certainly learned a lot from watching from the sidelines."

          Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or http://www.microsoft.com/. Further information about the Xbox can be found at http://www.xbox.com/.

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