Microsoft last week claimed its retail partners should start revving up for its biggest Christmas ever after it released a raft of new consumer software titles and hardware products.
"We're introducing 38 new products including a mix of learning and reference titles, productivity software, games and hardware," said Melinda Dunn, product manager for the home and retail group.
The star performers, according to Dunn, will be the new Intellimouse, which Microsoft is touting as having the most revolutionary design in the mouse's 30-year history, and key game products Age of Empires II, Flight Simulator 2000 and Links 2000.
"This is without question going to be our biggest ever Christmas in terms of both the quantity and quality of our titles," Dunn said. "We're expecting to see very strong growth.
"The key for retailers is going to be to make sure they stock enough of these products because some are going to explode into the market."
Microsoft is expecting big things from its Intellimouse, which it says is a "breakthrough" product in terms of mouse design. The Intellimouse does away with the traditional mouse ball, instead using optical sensors and digital signal processor to track movement. This means it can be used on almost any surface and still provide unparalleled accuracy, according to Microsoft.
"The Intellimouse is the hottest advancement to the mouse category in 30 years, providing the ultimate in accuracy and reliability," Dunn said.
Microsoft is also aiming to triple its sales in the keyboard category with three new products featuring new Internet and multimedia capabilities. It is also releasing three new Sidewinder gaming devices.
These include the Game Pad Pro high-end PC game controller, the Precision Racing Wheel and the 3D game controller Dual Strike, designed for 3D games like Quake.
In the game arena, its category killers will be the sequel to its best-selling strategy game Age of Empires as well as updates to its popular flight simulator and Links golf games.
Microsoft is planning to invest significant marketing dollars with both pre-launch and launch campaigns for Age of Empires II - The Age of Kings.
"There is going to be a lot of activ-ity and a lot of hype surrounding this title," Dunn said.
As well as Flight Simulator 2000 and Links 2000, Microsoft will also release International Soccer 2000, Pandora's Box, NBA Inside Drive 2000 and Close Combat Trilogy.
In the productivity space, WorksSuite 2000 will receive its biggest revamp in the product's history and Microsoft will also release new versions of some of its graphics titles, including Picture IT, Greetings and its Home Publishing Suite.
Its flagship reference and learning product will be the Encarta Reference Suite. "This will be a breakthrough year for us in terms of both the technology used in the title and it's also the biggest ever in terms of Australian content," Dunn said.
Product Availability ERP
Age of Empires II 1 November $89.95
Flight Simulator 2000 Std 22 November $99.95Flight Simulator 2000 Pro 22 November $139.00Links 20000 1 November $89.95International Soccer 2000 31 August $49.95Pandora's Box 31 August $49.95NBA Inside Drive 2000 31 August $49.95Close Combat Trilogy 4 October $79.95ProductivityProduct Availability ERPPicture It! 2000 27 September $89.95Greetings 2000 18 October $49.95Home Publishing 2000 18 October $79.95Home Publishing Suite 2000 18 October $119.00Works 2000 20 September $119.00WorksSuite 2000 20 December $189.00LearningProduct Availability ERPEncarta Reference Suite 2000 20 September $199.00*Encarta 2000 Deluxe 20 September $149.00**Encarta World Atlas 20 September $89.95***Encarta World English Dictionary 20 September $69.95HardwareProduct Availability ERPIntelliMouse Explorer 22 November $99.95IntelliMouse with IntelliEye 27 September $79.95Natural Keyboard Pro 22 November $119.00Internet Keyboard Pro 22 November $89.95Internet Keyboard 22 November $59.95Gaming controllers Product Availability ERPSideWinder Force Feedback 25 October $299.00 Joystick with Mech Warrior 3.0 SideWinder Dual Strike 22 November $99.95SideWinder Game Pad Pro 22 November $79.95SideWinder Precision Racing Wheel 22 November $169.00