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PC World

Will future PlayStations target PCs?


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March 5, 1999
Web posted at: 11:47 a.m. EST (1647 GMT)

by Rob Guth

TOKYO (IDG) -- Sony and Toshiba on Thursday said they would jointly produce a CPU that will be the heart of the next-generation PlayStation game machine and perhaps other digital products for the home.

The two companies will set up a yet-to-be-named joint venture and build production lines for the CPU within an existing Toshiba fabrication facility in Japan, officials said. The production line will open at the end of this year.

The chip, dubbed the Emotion Engine, or EE, is a 128-bit processor developed by the two companies and officially announced this week. The 300-MHz RISC processor combines memory and high-performance functions for processing graphics and sound. It will be the engine for Sony's next-generation PlayStation, due to ship in Japan early next year.

With chip production in place, "we will be fully prepared to go into mass production of the next generation PlayStation," said Ken Kutaragi, executive vice president and co-chief operations officer of Sony's gaming unit, Sony Computer Entertainment.

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The next-generation PlayStation is expected to incorporate functionality and features usually reserved for PCs, such as a DVD drive. The machine has been characterized by some observers this week as a potential competitor to home PCs that run on Intel's processors and Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Sony officials shrugged off the comparisons.

"It's a totally different animal," said Nobuyuki Idei, president of Sony. "[The chip] will create new business -- not an extension of the PC business."

Echoed Teruhisa Tokunaka, president and chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment: "In my home I have a game machine and a PC."

But the PlayStation is just one piece of comprehensive groundwork Sony is laying today for a future of digital products and services in the home. The company is working on software, set-top boxes, and storage systems in addition to technologies for delivering movies and music to homes over the Internet and via satellites. With an installed base of more than 50 million consoles, the PlayStation is already the world's leading game machine -- and could become an important home computing platform, analysts say.

"The PlayStation will have an impact [on computing] in the future -- it's not only a game machine," said Michito Kimura, an analyst at International Data Corporation Japan Ltd. in Tokyo. He added, however, that "will take time."

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