At midnight last night the first lucky punters collected their Xbox 360 consoles in what was the most hotly anticipated technology product launch of the year. Microsoft Ireland home entertainment general manager Orla Sheridan told siliconrepublic.com that the new games console launch could contribute to a surge in broadband demand in Ireland.
The new console was launched last night to the Irish market at a party in The Vaults in Dublin, attended by more than 400 people. At midnight stores such as Gamestop opened their doors to the first owners of the new product.
Sheridan said the Xbox 360 will firmly establish Microsoft in the vanguard of the digital entertainment industry over the next decade, transcending the realms of broadband, home entertainment and new platforms such as high-definition television (HDTV).
“We want to be the thought leaders and market leaders in driving the entertainment industry forward. We want to be the leader in the entertainment industry in the next decade,” Sheridan said.
It is understood that only people who pre-booked their Xbox 360s as far back as the summer will be fortunate enough to get their hands on the new consoles. However, siliconrepublic.com has learned that anxious punters would be well-advised to check out Brown Thomas and its sister BT2 stores for consoles.
“Demand is at an absolute high and we are sold out between now and Christmas,” Sheridan explained.
For people who didn’t pre-book the Xbox 360 or are unable to get their hands on the product Sheridan had the following advice: “Talk to your local store. We will be making shipments between now and January so keep in contact with your local store and we’ll get the shipments to them as fast as we can.”
Sheridan explained that at launch the console is backward compatible to play as many as 178 original Xbox games. “Over time we intend to make very one of the original Xbox games compatible with the new Xbox,” she said.
She continued: “We believe the new Xbox 360 will help to usher in the HDTV generation. If you have a HDTV you will experience the full power of the new console. However, even with an ordinary TV users will find the graphics multiple times better than the traditional Xbox.”
Sheridan also said that because of the internet-based focus of the product in terms of the Xbox Live Marketplace as well as the multiplayer capability, the advent of the Xbox 360 will lead to a surge in demand for broadband.
“We have been putting pressure on the various infrastructure players to make sure that our customers in Ireland can experience the same services as Xbox 360 owners around the globe. For example, we’ve been working with Magnet Networks and BT to make sure we are getting broadband to the consumers. The games are so much better when you play them online. There are other elements to the experience also such as playing online games, voice and video chat. There is a marketplace to download content such as trailers and game players can engage in matchmaking with other players at the same level in Project Gotham Racing 3, for example.”
Sheridan added that the company will today also launch a Wi-Fi peripheral that will enable broadband users to play online from anywhere in their home.
Although Ireland is the largest per capita consumer of archrival Sony’s PlayStation outside of Japan, Sheridan is confident that because the Xbox 360 is being unveiled possibly a year ahead of the PlayStation 3, the new Xbox will be able to maintain a market leader position. “This is our strategy. When the Xbox first came to market we were late to market and we vowed we would not be late again. We are here today and we are here to lead,” she said.
The new Xbox 360 will be powered by an IBM Power PC-based CPU capable of making 9.6 billion dot product operations per second and will boast 10MB of embedded DRAM memory and 512MB of RAM. In terms of graphics, the new console will boast a polygon performance of 500 million triangles per second and 48 billion shader operations per second. The company will be positioning the product to be more than just a games console but an entire entertainment solution capable of allowing users to watch DVD movies, play music CDs, connect their MP3 players, share and view digital pictures and use up to four wireless controllers simultaneously.
By John Kennedy