Generally, a new video-game console wouldn't be of much interest to Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE readers, but what about a game machine based on Windows 2000 (Win2K)? Last week, Microsoft unveiled its long-rumored plans for such a machine, code-named X-Box, which is expected to debut sometime in late 2001. Everything about the X-Box, from its hardware and software components to its very existence, was the stuff of intrigue and conjecture until the product's official announcement came late last week. First, the technical details: The X-Box will feature a 600MHz or greater Pentium III microprocessor and at least 64MB of RAM. Although a next-generation nVidia 3-D video card will place the X-Box well beyond the capabilities of its competition, the most interesting technical addition is an 8GB hard disk, which is a first for a game console.

Why is Microsoft interested in the already crowded video-game market? I've often said that Microsoft's biggest successes have been in the mass market, with products such as Windows, and I've questioned the company's ability to meet the quality demands of the lower-volume enterprise market. The gaming industry, however, is a natural target for Microsoft. With sales of almost $7 billion last year, the gaming industry will soon leapfrog the movie industry, so it's a clear moneymaker.

Microsoft's entrance into the gaming industry simply means leveraging its market-leading DirectX technology, which already drives the majority of top-rated PC games, with a new device similar enough to a PC to let developers easily move their titles to the system. The X-Box brings this compatibility, while eliminating all the Win2K features not needed for gaming. The result is a stable, high-performance system that handily beats the video-game competition expected during the next 2 years. Game developers, whom Microsoft first contacted almost a year ago, played a crucial role in determining the machine's specifications.

The X-Box is interesting...

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