Playstation 3 seen out of the box by 2005.
TOKYO, Sept 6 (Reuters) - While Sony Corp <6758.T> basks in the success of its PlayStation 2 in the $30 billion-plus-a-year videogame market, expectations are rising that its successor will be out of the box by 2005, in an entirely different form.
Sony remains tight-lipped about the timing of the next generation's debut, but it is dropping some hints about the product's likely shape -- or more accurately, lack of shape.
"We're not thinking about hardware," said Kenichi Fukunaga, spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), the Sony subsidiary that develops and makes the PlayStation.
"The ideal solution would be having an operating system installed in various home appliances that could run game programmes," he said.
Fuelling expectations of a 2005 target date is a microchip project among SCE, Toshiba Corp <6502.T>, Japan's largest chipmaker and co-producer of the PlayStation 2's complex microprocessor, and International Business Machines Corp
The four-year project, codenamed "cell" and due for completion in spring 2005, aims to create a powerful processor for home electronics with ultra-fast Internet connections that could, for example, transmit high-resolution moving pictures.
"It's possible PlayStation 3 would come out in 2005, since that's when Sony's cell project will yield something," said Kazuharu Miura, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd.
He added that, by 2005, Japan's broadband infrastructure for high-speed Internet service would be largely complete and Sony would likely have a clearer idea of what kind of online games people want to play.
SCE said it had not decided how to integrate the cell processor into its next game console, but the general idea was to use the chip in Internet servers and home electronics to divide computing tasks among networked machines.
This would give the devices as much processing power as a supercomputer, such as IBM's "Deep Blue" machine that defeated Gary Kasparov at chess, and enable them to handle everything from games to video recording to downloading data from the Internet.
"We've started with boxes -- making boxes to do specific things, but if you have a chip this powerful you can add functions to any box. It's reverse thinking," said SCE's Fukunaga.
PlayStation 2, with more than 33 million machines sold since its launch in March 2000, has dwarfed sales of rival consoles released last year: Microsoft Corp's
Xbox and Nintendo Ltd's <7974.OS> GameCube.
But the competition looks unlikely to let Sony have the next generation all to itself.
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft was considering launching a new game machine in 2003 or 2004 that would cost about $500 and be able to pause live TV and record programmes onto a hard drive.
Sony earlier this week launched a home video recorder with just those functions, the first product in its Cocoon line of home electronics that will hook up to the Internet.
Sony's shares slipped on Friday, in line with weakness in the broader market. The stock closed down 0.61 percent at 4,910 yen, while the Tokyo Stock Exchange's electrical machinery index <.IELEC.T> was down 1.33 percent.
Friday, 6 September 2002 06:51:32
Edit: Reformating article to look better.