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NY G80246

August 24, 2000

CLA-2-84:RR:NC:MM:110 G80246


TARIFF NO.: 8471.60.9090; 8524.39.4000

Ms. Kathy Bartlett
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399

RE: The tariff classification of the "SideWinder Game Voice" from China.

Dear Ms. Bartlett:

In your letter dated July 27, 2000, on behalf of Microsoft you requested a tariff classification ruling.

The merchandise under consideration is called the "SideWinder Game Voice" system ("Game Voice"). This is a computer device typically used as a game controller for PC-based games. The Game Voice adds voice communication and voice control to a wide variety of games. The device consists of two components, a control pad ("puck") with 8 buttons and indicator lights and a stereo headset with microphone. The headset plugs into the device's control pad, which in turn plugs into the audio in/out and Universal Serial Bus (USB) jacks on the computer. Software is supplied in CD form. Microsoft plans on importing the "SideWinder Game Voice" system's Control Pad ("puck"), Headset, Software and Manuals as a set put up for retail.

The Game Voice allows players to communicate within games (over the Internet or LAN) and to take advantage of voice activation of game commands via a stereo headset connected to a control unit. Game Voice lets you talk in your games instead of typing. But players don't have to be online and connected to others in order to take advantage of Game Voice's voice command functionality. It has pre-built word sets for popular games, which can be customized by users adding their own commands. For voice communications in multi-player games, the device's 6 programmable voice selection buttons, each with an indicator light, allow the user to speak to particular individuals, teams, groups or all players. Connection among the player may be via the Internet, a wide-area Intranet or a local area network (LAN). Commands from the programmable buttons and to the indicator lights are conveyed between the host computer and the device via standard USB HID protocols. The device's host software manages the network communications traffic for the multi-player game data and digital voice packets.

For voice control, the device provides speaker-independent limited-vocabulary voice recognition, primarily for PC-based games. Software that comes with the device runs on the host computer, accepts digital voice data form the host computer's sound hardware, and translates the voice commands into keystrokes to control the game. A button labeled "Command" with an indicator lamp allows the user to select whether the host computer should use his/her voice for voice commands or for voice communications. One micro-controller is used to provide the facility to communicate with a host computer as a USB device. The buttons that control voice channel switching, command, mute, and volume are managed by circuitry inside the Game Voice control unit ("puck"). The control unit is quite sophisticated and contains a microprocessor and embedded firmware. Specific Interface hardware communicates with the host software on the PC via the USB. The PC host converts the button commands into network packets that are directed to particular network user destinations. The control unit and the PC software are intimately tied together. Although the PC performs the actual audio routing, the control unit performs the critical user interface function, much as a specialized keyboard/display unit.

The desktop control "puck" is a composite machine under Section XVI, Note 3, in that it provides both game control input and communications functions. However, it is noted that the PC and software implement the communication functions. The control "puck" also meets Chapter 84, Note 5(b) with regard to separately presented units of an automatic data processing machine. Therefore, the control function appears to be its principal function. The desktop control "puck" also provides the essential character of the SideWinder Game Voice system.

The headset consists of two foam-covered speakers, a boom microphone, adjustable headband and a cable terminated with two standard audio plugs. The headset is cabled to the desktop "puck" and can be replaced.

The software package consists of "Voice Chat" and "Command and Control". This CD-ROM software was designed exclusively for the "SideWinder Game Voice" and contains: Speech recognition software, which includes features that work in conjunction with the "puck"; Internet voice-chat software, which also integrates with the "puck"; MSN Messenger for Internet on-line presence detection and text chat; and Direct X7 for upgrading the user's PC to support the latest games and multimedia technologies.

Explanatory Note (VIII) to GRI 3(b) states as follows: "For the purposes of this Rule, the term "goods put up in sets for retail sale" shall be taken to mean goods which: (a) consist of at least two different articles classifiable in different headings; (b) consist of products or articles put up together to meet a particular need (c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking." "The factor which determines essential character will vary as between kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods." The puck, headset and software as imported are put up for retail sale within a single package. Thus, the "SideWinder Game Voice" system is considered a set within the meaning of GRI 3(b) and should be classified as if they consisted of the component, which gives them their essential character.

The applicable subheading for the "SideWinder Game Voice" will be 8471.60.9090, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), which provides for "Automatic data processing machines and units thereofInput or output units, whether or not containing storage units in the same housing: Other: Other: Other: Other: Other: Other:" The rate of duty will be free.

Note 6 to Chapter 85 states: "Records, tapes and other media of heading 8523 or 8524 remain classified in those headings, whether or not they are entered with the apparatus for which they are intended.”

Following Note 6 to Chapter 85, the applicable classification for the software imported on CD-ROMs will be 8524.39.4000, HTS, which provides for records, tapes and other recorded media for sound or other similarly recorded phenomenadiscs for laser reading systems: other: for reproducing representations of instructions, data, sound, and image, recorded in a machine readable binary form, and capable of being manipulated or providing interactivity to a user, by means of an automatic data processing machine; proprietary format recorded discs. The rate of duty will be free.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Eileen S. Kaplan at 212-637-7019.


Robert B. Swierupski

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