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Friday, April 21, 2006
Gates Confident over Xbox and HD DVD in Japan

Microsoft founder Bill Gates expressed confidence in the success of the new Xbox 360 game console as well as the high-definition HD DVD technology, while visiting Japan on Friday.

Japan is a key battleground for next-generation video game consoles and DVD players. Gates said he hoped the Xbox 360 would win a new legion of older fans with its simple games and online multi-player system.

Video game consoles is the one area that Microsoft is still struggling with in Japan where Japanese rival Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 outsells Microsoft offerings, including the latest Xbox 360.

"The Xbox came out for the last Christmas season. That's been a very sold-out product and really ushering in this idea of high-definition gaming -- realism -- but even more importantly, the idea of community.

"Bringing that social community aspect into this we think is very critical and it will redefine and revolutionise those products, in fact make it attractive not just to young men but to people of all ages," he told reporters.

The U.S. software is supporting the HD DVD format pushed by Toshiba and NEC, which is vying with the rival Blu-ray format, led by Sony and Panasonic.

"We think products like HD DVD and Xbox 360 are really going to drive consumers to expect that high definition," said Gates.

He also indicated that Microsoft's next operating system, Vista, the release of which has been delayed until next year, could eventually be made compatible with the Blu-ray format if its developers share the necessary information.

"In terms of Blu-ray that's also coming along. As they finalise their specifications we'll understand how well that's able to connect up to Windows. As yet they haven't shared that," he said.

He also reaffirmed the U.S. software company's commitment to the Japanese market as he kicked off a campaign here to offer some free technology help to nonprofit organizations.

Microsoft officials will travel to various regions in Japan to teach nonprofit groups ways to hook more easily with donors and let the public know about their services, he said.

Microsoft software dominates the Japanese market as it does with much of the rest of the world. Japanese government agencies have been trying to increase the use of nonproprietary software such as Linux but relies heavily on Microsoft.

The company, based in Redmond, Washington, also boasts key business partnerships in Japan, including those with electronics makers as well as game-software makers.

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