The console should have 1000 times the processing power of the PS2, undoubtedly making it more than a games machine. The timing of Sony’s announcement has fueled speculation the PS3 may launch as early as 2004. This could force Microsoft to bring its Xbox 2 forward, and would also increase the PlayStation’s penetration into general living room entertainment.
Sony technology guru Shin’ichi Okamoto has indicated the PS3 will be based on distributed computing.
Sony Computer Entertainment’s CTO Shin’ichi Okamoto has revealed that the successor to the PlayStation 2 will be based on distributed computing – splitting up tasks between networked computers. This should give it 1000 times the PS2’s processing power. Sony has partnered with IBM and Toshiba for this project, and they will invest $400 million over the next five years.
The PlayStation 3’s main processor is partly inspired by Sony’s GSCube project, which combines 16 PS2 graphics chips in a single box. Sony used GSCubes on animated films such as Final Fantasy and Antz. IBM’s grid computing technology, as used in its Big Blue supercomputer, should also play a role.
The announcement could well be a calculated move. Although the PS2 should be market leader for the next two to three years, the Xbox’s raw power is wooing an increasing number of gamers and developers. Sony may now be trying to prove it has not lost its technological leadership to Microsoft.
Is an early PS3 launch on the cards? Sony will recoup PS2 development costs a year before Microsoft and Nintendo. If it launched the PS3 in 2004-05, this would be bad news for Microsoft. The US giant is expected to lose money on each Xbox sold until 2004, and a PS3 launch would increase the pressure for an early Xbox 2 launch.
But such a strategy could prove risky for Sony. Consoles’ success comes partly because they do not become obsolete as rapidly as PCs. A technological race could make consumers wary of upgrading.
More importantly, the current console cycle is a springboard for a much bigger market: living room entertainment. The PS2 and Xbox’s Internet services will start to make consoles a potential hub for digital content such as music, film and games. The PS3 will take this further, with improved features for communication and digital content delivery. A first-mover advantage for Sony in this space could justify an early launch.