By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: Microsoft Australia has confirmed that the enhanced Xbox 360 Elite gaming console with 120GB hard drive and HDMI input will be available in Australia from Winter 2007 in limited supply.

Hot on the heels of the Australian release of the competing PlayStation 3 (PS3) console only last week, Microsoft has upped the ante by releasing the 360 Elite with twice the storage capacity of the PS3, high-definition video connection and cables, wireless controller, Xbox Live headset and a new sleek black casing.

While an official Australian price has yet to be confirmed, it is likely that the Xbox 360 Elite will launch for $595, which is cheaper than the existing Xbox 360 Premium console (RRP $649), and is consistent with official US pricing of the 360 Elite.

“Since Xbox 360 launched a year ago, we’ve been listening to customer feedback and, as a result, we’re very excited to now add the premium Xbox 360 Elite to the top end of the Xbox range,” said Xbox Australia and New Zealand regional director, David McLean.

“With a large storage capacity for games, music, and high-definition TV shows and movies, the new 120 GB hard drive will help to satisfy our customers’ appetite for on-demand, HD entertainment experiences offered through Xbox Live Marketplace, both now and in the near-future.”

Also announced this week in the US was the high-definition Xbox 360 Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), which allows users to access high-definition content via the Xbox Live Marketplace and through an existing internet connection, meaning television shows and movies can be streamed directly from the 360 Elite for users to view in the comfort of their lounge rooms. However the television and movie aspect of IPTV has yet to be announced in Australia.

Author of  ‘Opening the Xbox’ and ‘The Xbox 360 Uncloaked’, Dean Takahashi, believes the new 360 Elite and its IPTV service could impact on Sony’s successful launch of its PS3 console.

“When you think about the purpose of the Elite this spring, it is a marketing thing – it blunts the appeal of Sony’s box," Takahashi said in The Mercury News. 
“I think the value that they’re trying to deliver with the Elite system is with IPTV,” he said.

“Turning your 360 into a full-fledged IPTV system is a pretty good value if you look at what AT&T is doing with its not-so-functional DVR Uverse set-tops. It’s like you get a free set-top [box] when you buy an Elite. That’s not a bad value, like getting a free Blu-ray player when you buy a PS3.”
Films such as New Line Cinema’s ‘Snakes on a Plane’ will be made available as well as coming releases from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s direct-to-video division.