Xbox's timing helps it steal the title

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am


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Hong Kong is gadget mad. After all, this is a city with the world's second-highest penetration of mobile phones, where women's spending on this must-have communication and fashion item has even surpassed the money women splash on luxury handbags, according to the South China Morning Post and Harper's Bazaar Style Alert survey released this week.

Indeed, one of the main contenders for Gadget of the Year was a mobile phone, LG's slinky smooth Chocolate model. The phone features a touch-sensitive keypad, Bluetooth wireless capability, a digital music player, and a 1.3 megapixel still and video camera.

Not surprisingly for those who are regulars on the Hong Kong public transport network, where portable video game machines are often more popular than books and newspapers among the city's tech-savvy youth, Nintendo's funky DS Lite was another device nominated for the award.

Rather than going for a futuristic look, Nintendo went retro with the DS Lite, which features a double screen reminiscent of the original Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros games from the 1980s.

The winning gadget was a gaming console, but one which stays strictly indoors - Microsoft's Xbox 360.

The software behemoth rushed into production with its next-generation console and released it on the US market on November 15, to get ahead of competitors Nintendo and Sony.

By the end of last year the Xbox had already sold more than 10 million units and business is showing no sign of slowing down, with Xbox clubs and competitions in Hong Kong already celebrating the power of the machine.

Competition in this gaming market is fierce, with the manufacturers prepared to take losses on the actual cost of producing the machines in order to win market share.

Sony's PlayStation 3 was in the US on November 17, two days before Nintendo Wii's launch in North America.

And Microsoft's strategy seems to have worked - at least for this year - with the Xbox 360 collecting the Gadget of the Year award. But the decision of the judges to award the prize is always a subjective one.

Bryan Ma, IT market research director from tech survey firm IDC, said there are definitely some stylish touches to the Xbox 360, but personally he would have voted for the LG Chocolate phone.

'The Chocolate is a rather interesting concept, especially the way it's been marketed and the sleek design,' Mr Ma said.

'It has really done well to get a following based on a cool, memorable name that's really attracting people to go and have a look.

'But the Xbox did advance the cause for console gaming, a hobby immensely popular in Hong Kong, where plenty of time is spent indoors.

'The Xbox definitely represented an evolution in the way these products are going,' Mr Ma said.

And competition for dominance in the console market will only increase this year with PS3 and Wii arrivals in Hong Kong.

'We don't know how much of an advantage Microsoft's early arrival on the market will have,' Mr Ma said.

The Nintendo product, with its interactive games, was targeting a wider market, he said.

The key feature of the machine is the unique remote game controller, which allows players to take part in the games physically.

'They are targeting casual gamers as well as the more serious ones with a-typical games,' Mr Ma said.

'There will be unique games such as fishing.'