Software titan Microsoft is set to launch the public relations effort for its Xbox games console a year before the product is actually launched.

Bill Gates is reportedly planning to present the Xbox at the Computer Electronics Show, opening Saturday in Las Vegas. The console is not scheduled for roll-out in the US and Japan until the end of the year, while Europe will have to wait until 2002. Microsoft is budgeting $500 million to advertise Xbox.

The early strike is designed to hit Sony, whose recently launched Playstation 2 will be Xbox’s biggest rival. Sony is undergoing problems in supplying the new console to consumers, and Microsoft hopes to convince potential buyers to hold on until its product hits the shops.

News source: Financial Times