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Microsoft to add karaoke to Xbox

The software, which Microsoft will announce today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in Los Angeles, is a computer-based version of karaoke. Due out this fall, the product, called Music Mixer, signals Xbox’s anticipated move into family entertainment.

With its DVD drive, Xbox can already play movies. But the new software package, which will come with a microphone and sell for $40, will include songs, photos and a set of graphics effects.

Cameron Ferroni, product manager for Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming service, said teens can use the graphics to create visuals that “dance” with the music, while adults will be able to hold sing-along parties or set music to a family slide show,

For the karaoke, Ferroni said any compact disc can be used, thanks to technology that can strip the lead vocals from songs.

The music or visuals can be transferred from the computer to Xbox for viewing or singing at the television — in the living room, where Microsoft has been working to gain ground since it launched the game console in November 2001.

In its battle with Nintendo’s GameCube and Sony’s top-selling PlayStation 2 console, Microsoft is competing in a $27 billion market made up primarily of young men.

Microsoft hopes to vastly expand that market by promoting Xbox as all-in-one entertainment hub.

“That’s a key thing this holiday season — expanding the demographic for Xbox,” Ferroni said.

“We see Music Mixer putting us over the (top),” he added, by appealing to parents, teenage girls and the hardcore gamer.

For the gamers, Microsoft will also announce today it has eight new games and six new features to come for the stand-alone Xbox or its online service. They include XSN Sports, a new branding of Xbox sports titles that allows gamers to compete in and record statistics for their own “virtual” leagues.

In the next 12 months, Ferroni said, Microsoft will launch a service called Xbox Live Alerts that will allow gamers to challenge friends to an online match via cell phones or handheld computers equipped with MSN Messenger software.

Source: King County Journal