WinInfo Daily UPDATE, January 19, 2005

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In the News

- Intel Releases Sonoma Update to Centrino
- Success of Halo 2 Puts Xbox Over the Top

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Intel Releases Sonoma Update to Centrino

Microprocessor giant Intel yesterday launched a new version of its Centrino platform for mobile computing, which includes a new version of its Pentium-M mobile processor. Code-named Sonoma, the update touches each piece of the Centrino platform, including the processor, the wireless adapter, and the underlying chipset. At the center of the new Centrino platform is the 915 Express chipset, which replaces the earlier Intel 855 chipset. The 915 chipset adds support for the newer PCI Express bus type, Double Data Rate (DDR)-2 memory, and Dolby Digital/Dolby 7.1 surround sound audio, and it bumps the front-side bus speed from 400MHz to 533MHz.
The wireless adapter gets several security-oriented features, including compatibility with 802.11i and Wireless Protected Access (WPA) 2. Intel has also improved the firmware in the wireless adapter to work in tandem with new PC-based software that makes connecting to hot spots easier for Centrino-based systems.
Intel has updated the Pentium-M with various versions ranging from an ultra-low-voltage model that runs at 1.2GHz to a barn-burning 2.13GHz Pentium-M that offers desktop performance levels. Intel says that systems based on the Sonoma generation of Centrino will exhibit a graphics improvement of 90 percent over comparable earlier-generation Centrino systems, and battery life has improved as well.
First introduced in 2003, the Centrino has proven to be a huge hit for Intel, and it's changed the way the company develops its desktop chips. Every major PC maker, including Dell, HP, and IBM, have pledged to support the new Centrino, and many companies are already shipping hardware based on the new design. Intel says that more than 80 notebook PC models with the new platform are shipping now, and that more than 150 will appear by the end of the year.

Success of Halo 2 Puts Xbox Over the Top

Video game sales rocketed to record levels in 2004, and one of the most popular games of the year came from an unexpected source. Microsoft's Halo 2, which runs only on the Xbox video game system, sold 4.2 million units in the United States between its November 2004 release and the end of the year, making it the second best-selling game of the year. Take 2's ultra-violent Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came in first with 5.1 million units sold. But consider this: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas shipped a full month earlier than Halo 2 and is available only on the Sony PlayStation 2, a system with three times the market penetration of the Xbox. And Halo 2 beat out the multiplatform hit Madden 2005, the third best-selling title of the year with 3 million units sold. Madden is made by Electronic Arts (EA).
Overall, US sales for video game hardware, software, and related accessories reached $9.9 billion, slightly down from the $10 billion figure recorded in 2003. However, that number doesn't include game sales for PCs, which will be announced next week. With that announcement, sales of video games in 2004 will surpass those from 2003 and set an all-time record.
This grow is amazing because for the first time ever, it's happening during the waning days of a current generation of video game console hardware. Both the market-leading PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox are expected to be replaced by next-generation consoles in late 2005 or early 2006. Typically, at this phase in their lifetimes, sales begin to fall. In 2004, for the first time, that didn't happen. Also, both the Xbox and PlayStation 2 experienced shortages during the crucial holiday 2004 selling season, which should have adversely affected sales growth.
For Microsoft, this news is heartening. Written off as an also-ran when the PlayStation 2 shot to first place, the Xbox has seen a massive resurgence in recent months and has even outsold the PlayStation 2 in some markets. Part of the reason for that success is excitement over Halo 2, but much of it must be attributed to the Xbox's simple online multiple-player capabilities, which make the system uniquely suited to both Internet and LAN-based death matches. Sony, sensing the trend, rereleased the PlayStation 2 in late 2004 to include the Ethernet port required for online play.
The top-10 list of best-selling video games from 2004 is rounded out by ESPN NFL 2005 (Take 2), Need for Speed: Underground 2 (EA), Pokemon FireRed with Adapter (Nintendo), NBA Live 2005 (EA), Spider-Man 2 (Activision), Halo (Microsoft), and ESPN NFL 2K5 (Take 2). Interestingly, Nintendo's entry, Pokemon FireRed, is a title for the company's mobile machine, the GameBoy Advance, not for its lagging GameCube video game console. No GameCube titles appeared in the top 10, and the GameCube, unlike the Xbox and PlayStation 2, was readily available throughout the holidays.

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