Microsoft kicks off Xbox online games plan

The two companies plan to launch the broadband network service in 2002, later than the expected Japanese launch for the Xbox console in late 2001. It will be provided through NTT Communication's ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) Internet access service, they said in a statement Thursday.

Additionally, the two companies said they will work together to explore future network gaming systems based on fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services. NTT is already testing FTTH, in which customers can access the Internet at speeds up to 100Mbps via a fibre optic cable, and expects to launch a commercial service in the coming months.

In Japan more than any other country, Microsoft faces intense competition from Sony Computer Entertainment and its PlayStation 2 console. Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, is launching the company's publicity assault on the Japanese market Friday when he delivers a keynote address at the Tokyo Game Show, where several local games software developers are expected to be showing software for the new machine.

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