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Nintendo Unveils New System Details

During the Nintendo press briefing Wednesday, chairman Howard Lincoln announced the first details on a partnership between Nintendo and IBM that will see a new Nintendo console system. The announcement of the system in development, currently code named "Dolphin," was summarized in one succinct phrase delivered by Lincoln: "fast, powerful, and inexpensive."

The Dolphin, currently being planned for a worldwide release by the 2000 holiday season, is being prepared to go directly head-to-head with Sony's next-generation PlayStation system. At its press briefing, Nintendo claimed that the Dolphin hardware will be able to equal - and in many cases exceed - anything that the PlayStation 2 hardware will be capable of.

Nintendo's one-billion-dollar agreement with IBM involves IBM designing and manufacturing a unique 400MHz central processor featuring IBM's 0.18 micron copper technology. The chip, dubbed the "Gekko" processor, is an extension of the IBM PowerPC architecture.

Nintendo also announced, amid a round of enthusiastic applause, that the Dolphin will not be a cartridge-based system, but rather a DVD-driven unit. Matsushita will develop, manufacture, and supply DVDs for Nintendo. The proprietary DVD format will play movie and music DVDs, and it will be counterfeit proof and competitively priced, according to Lincoln. Without commitment of details, Lincoln mentioned Nintendo's interest in extending Dolphin and Matsushita technology to other products. It was also hinted that future Matsushita and Panasonic DVD players will employ the Dolphin hardware, letting Nintendo capture the market VM Labs is hoping to conquer with its NUON system.

The system's graphics will be supplied by a custom graphics chip from ArtX. This chip will run at 200MHz. While there was a brief Q&A session after the press conference, further information such as RAM could not be made available at that time.

Besides DVD and a hefty processor, Nintendo also plans to make the new unit Internet capable; however, details were not given, as the company plans to keep some plans secret, "There are more surprises to come," said Lincoln, "for you, and especially for our competitors."

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