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Sony Ups the Ante with PlayStation 3

At an E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 2005 pre-show press conference, Sony unveiled its upcoming PlayStation 3 video game console, which executives say will ship in early 2006, or almost six months after Microsoft's November 2005 launch of the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 (PS3) will feature a 3.2 GHz Cell processor that was co-developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba. And Sony executives say the device has more than enough muscle--and the required backwards compatibility with PlayStation 1 and 2 games--to maintain the company's market dominance.


"PS3 is truly the system to be placed in the center of the living room around the world," said Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Ken Kutaragi. "We have developed the world's most powerful Cell processor, which is going to be applied in our next-generation system." The PS3, Kutaragi says, will be 35 times as powerful as the current PS2.


Available in three color versions---white, silver, or black--the PS3 is more curvaceous and modern looking than the current PS2, but is similar in size. The unit will utilize Blu-Ray optical disks to store games and play HD (high-definition) movies. But the big news with the PS3 is its processing prowess. The device is capable of outputting two simultaneous HD streams at a whopping 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080 progressive), twice the output capability of the Xbox 360 and with a finer picture quality. As a result, PS3 power users will be able to drive two side-by-side HDTV displays for unique panoramic effect.


Like the Xbox 360, the PS3 will be capable of strikingly realistic graphics. However, unlike Microsoft, Sony won't require game makers to write games only to HD. Instead, PS3 developers are permitted to target low-end standard definition (SD) displays if they'd prefer. This could lead to quicker game development, and thus more games, though such games won't provide the graphical fidelity of HD titles.


The PS3's Cell processor is a bit of an unknown quantity at this time. Sony executives say the chip is capable of over twice the performance of the 3.2 GHz PowerPC processor used by the Xbox, but that bit of hyperbole will need to be tested and confirmed by independent sources. Sony chose an NVIDIA-based graphics processing unit, compared to an ATI-based version in the Xbox 360. Both companies are widely regarded as leaders in graphics display technologies.


As with the Xbox 360, Sony is also pushing the PS3 as a digital hub device that will play back a variety of digital media formats and support video conferencing features. And though the PS3 includes built-in networking capabilities, Sony lacks a cohesive online strategy. Microsoft, meanwhile, has an established and popular Xbox Live service.

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