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Does Microsoft have a plan?

Confirms 90% coverage for American MS-backed DSL services; still no word on Europe

Microsoft seems to have inadvertently answered those critical of the online gaming features of its Xbox game console. In an announcement unrelated to Xbox today, the company told the press that it has agreed a major deal with DSL providers in the United States to ensure 90% coverage within three months; the perfect service for Xbox owners. The service will be priced at $49.95 a month, available immediately to 60% of households and provided through companies like Verizon, BellSouth and SBC Communications. It hasn't said as much, but we had always expected something of the sort in the USA, where broadband Internet connections are relatively commonplace, and the systems used are often dramatically different to those employed here. As we continue to point out, in the United Kingdom and Europe, the systems employed vary a great deal. What Microsoft proposes with Xbox, that gamers can simply plug their console into a cable modem or DSL adapter and have instant access to online gaming, is simply not feasible nine times out of ten. There will be a significant minority, the company hopes, that have PPPoE (Ethernet-based) xDSL connections, and cable modems that accept connections from new devices indiscriminately, but as we have said before, that's not good enough. Now, there exist enterprising gamers who know enough about the technology at work to improvise a workaround to the problems (brought to light in this editorial). But they are not the people Microsoft need to worry about. The people Microsoft should worry about are casual gamers, who have been told they may simply 'plug and play' with their existing Internet connections. We shall no doubt know more by next Spring. In the meantime, Sony continue to trial their cable modem service with Telewest and co-conspirator ntl. Related Feature - Is Xbox the future of online console gaming?

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