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Why you can't see the X-Box
SAN JOSE, California (CNN) -- There were lots of oohs and ahhs when Bill Gates showed what Microsoft's new X-Box could do. But where was the box itself?
At the prestigious Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, this week, Gates knew he needed to reach the right software and hardware experts.
His competitor Sega was selling millions of Dreamcast machines. Sony had just unveiled its dazzling Playstation 2.
Nintendo's new Dolphin comes out early next year. Gates knew he needed to draw some attention away. This was the perfect time to introduce the X-Box. Even though no retailer in America will see it until a year and a half from now.
Eighteen is an eternity in Internet time.
So what was on stage with Bill Gates? Is that the box we'll see at home? "It's a chrome 'x'" said a Microsoft employee.
And no, it is not what you'll get a year and a half from now.
Microsoft did not want to show the actual box because it would "confuse consumers with the image" of a machine that may not look at all like the one to be released late next year.
Cameras were banned from the auditorium where Gates was revealing the X-Box concept.
The company refused to provide a video feed of Gates' comments, while perplexed aides were turning away media cameras at the door. Even hyper-controlling Apple Computer's Steve Jobs allows cameras in. Microsoft refused to allow reporters to record a video feed of his remarks.
The company issued clips of simulations of what the X-Box would do. But showed no actual pictures of the box. Again, the company says it did not want to plant a false image of what this gizmo would look like.
To Gates' credit, he was concentrating on luring developers into taking his product seriously enough by showing them what it did -- rather than what it looked like.
"Eighteen months out we have to go to developers and talk to them about the platform, talk to them about the tools and the architecture so that when the product ships there are amazing games available," Robbie Bach of Microsoft said.
And the developers were impressed.
The video motion was smooth, graphics detailed and clean. Many of the show attendees we talked with particularly agreed with the choice of NVIDEA's graphics chip.
But in this visual and tactile world, the device itself must make me swoon. Apple Computer has set new standards in "form factor" geek jargon for the actual look and feel of these electronic gizmos.
It's eye catching iMacs and iBooks are hot sellers.
Microsoft has a tall order to fill if it wants the X-Box's looks to match the performance we saw this week.
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