DS image and info hits the web ahead of Nintendo E3 conference

World's first glimpse of Nintendo's new handheld confirms clamshell design, touch panel, GBA compatibility.

Further information about the forthcoming Nintendo DS handheld has emerged just hours ahead of its official unveiling in Los Angeles - including what purports to be the first picture of the hardware, and details of some software demos.

The system is officially going to be called Nintendo DS at retail, despite earlier statements from the company which referred to the DS acronym as a codename, and not Nitro as had been speculated following the discovery of that name on a Nintendo developer website.

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Like the GBA SP, it is a clamshell design, with one screen in each folding section - but it is significantly wider than the SP, with a D-pad on one side of the lower screen, and four buttons on the other side. The four-button design is a major departure for Nintendo's handheld consoles, which have always used two-button control layouts in the past.

Most interestingly, the lower screen is indeed touch sensitive, as was suggested by leaked specification information from Japan earlier this year. The system comes with a stylus for drawing on the lower screen, and one game demonstration apparently involves drawing clouds on the screen in order to slow the descent of baby Mario as he falls from the sky.

The system - which is slightly more powerful than the Nintendo 64, once again as suggested by the leaked specifications - has two game cartridge slots, one for Game Boy Advance games, and another for the smaller DS game cards. It also sports Bluetooth wireless networking technology for connecting DS devices together.

No details of pricing, or exact launch date information, has been revealed so far - this information may be forthcoming at Nintendo's conference (which takes place on Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, so early this evening European time), although the company has generally used this conference as a platform for revealing new software and technology, rather than discussing the nitty-gritty of pricing and launch dates.

Of course, while the systems are very dissimilar - and their price points are likely to be separated by over a hundred US dollars in difference - comparisons will inevitably be made with the Sony PlayStation Portable, which will be unveiled about two hours before the Nintendo device at a separate press conference in LA.

"I have not seen the PSP," Nintendo's legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto is quoted as saying to USA Today, which provided the advance information by way of an early edition. "The screen, I believe, is bigger than a DS screen, and I am sure it will have excellent graphic quality... [But] the PSP will not be able to display anything that you cannot do on a current system... We want to do things that you could not do before. We are looking at the creative end."

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