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New Xbox Marks The Spot At CES

LAS VEGAS – If media exposure is any indicator of the potential success of a new gaming platform, Microsoft’s Xbox should be a shoe-in for early mass-market acceptance.

Despite the fact that a finished, fully functional product wasn’t available (only prototypes running at one-fifth power were demonstrated), the platform was one of the most covered new products at CES.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates’ reviewed the device during the show’s opening address, along with a special appearance by the World Wrestling Federation star “The Rock,” who is certain to be a popular figure in an early Xbox game title or two.

The Xbox console will carry four inputs for game controllers, an 8GB hard drive for downloading and playing software titles, an Ethernet port for broadband video gameplaying, a 733MHz Intel processor and a 250MHz nVidia graphics processor.

It will also support 5.1-channel surround sound and will be compatible with digital television sets.

Comparatively, Sony’s PS2 uses 147.5MHz graphics processor, while Nintendo’s Gamecube is expected to offer a 202.5MHz graphics chip.

Like Sony’s PlayStation 2, which was absent from CES, Xbox is designed around the DVD disc platform.

The black box emblazoned with a large X and jewel logo, includes a front-loading disc tray, like a DVD movie player, but is designed and marketed as a gaming device out of the box. However, Microsoft executives affirmed the platform will allow DVD movie playing when an optional Xbox remote control is used.

Pricing of the system and accessories were not announced at the show, although an introduction is expected this fall. A dozen or more titles are expected at launch, said Microsoft games publishing VP Ed Fries, with more to follow soon after.