The forthcoming X-Box games console stands to make Microsoft's business in New Zealand considerably larger and more profitable - but it'll be a year before it gets here.
At a briefing on Microsoft's business strategy yesterday, general manager Geoff Lawrie described the new console as an "outrageous opportunity" for the company.
"It could have significant impact on the size and profitability of Microsoft in New Zealand," said Lawrie.
The box will be released in some territories before Christmas, but Microsoft doesn't expect a New Zealand launch until about this time next year, when anticipated supply shortages have eased somewhat.
X-Box is likely to wring some extra value out of the relationship between Microsoft and Telecom - it is internet-capable and will ship with a built-in Ethernet port, making it a natural for connection to DSL services. Like its likely rival, PlayStation 2, it also plays DVD discs.
Microsoft's director of sales and marketing Ross Peat said the marketing spend behind the X-Box would be similar in magnitude to that for Windows 95, but denied a suggestion by an advertising industry source that the company had already begun setting aside budget: "That's not the way we do it. It will be part of the marketing budget for the next financial year, which begins in July. We're about with meet with [Microsoft Australia] to plan that."
Peat said the console was a new area for Microsoft, but that retailers were already "excited" about the product.