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A fleeting chance to bid for an Xbox

Although gamers are already bidding up this year's hard-to-find holiday gift, Sony's PlayStation 2, there is a brief chance to snag what could be next year's hot item: Microsoft's Xbox.

    Although Microsoft's Xbox won't arrive until next fall, gamers have a brief opportunity to snag one in an online auction for charity.

    Microsoft announces the Xbox (3/19/00)
    The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has donated a half-dozen of the game consoles in an Amazon.com auction sponsored by a video-game trade association. The auction comes as bidders on eBay are offering nearly twice the asking price for this holiday season's hot item--Sony's PlayStation 2.

    Winners won't get the Xbox until it starts shipping next fall. But in the meantime, they will have a hand-signed certificate from Bill Gates assuring that they will be one of the first with the console.

    Several auctions are under way, with bids ranging from about $400 to more than $600. One unit already sold for $2,550, although that included the leather Xbox jacket that Bill Gates wore when he announced the console.

    The auctions run through Friday.

    Microsoft has not announced pricing for the Xbox but has said the console will be competitive with other game machines on the market.

    Nintendo donated to the charity auction a Game Cube and a tour of its studios. Sony chipped in two PlayStation 2 units to the auction, which benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and is sponsored by the Interactive Digital Software Association.

    Meanwhile, in unrelated auctions on eBay, bids for PlayStation 2 units are already topping $550. The console is set to go on sale Oct. 26 for a suggested price of $299. However, Sony has chopped in half the number of units it expects to ship at launch, adding fuel to already strong demand.

    Although no consumers or retailers have the U.S. version of the consoles in their hands yet, those who claim they'll have them on launch day are putting the PlayStation 2 units up for auction.

    An auction on Amazon in July for the first New Internet Computers, with a certificate signed by Oracle chief executive and New Internet Computer Co. chairman Larry Ellison, fetched $1,850 apiece for machines that normally sell for $199 plus the cost of a monitor.