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Analysts rain on PlayStation II parade…

...the day before its chief rival's US launch. Ahem

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In what sounds suspiciously like pro-Sega spin, a handful of Japanese analysts today cast doubt on Sony's ability to deliver its much-anticipated PlayStation II 128-bit games console on time. According to Reuters, one Takashi Mimura, an analyst at Societe Generale, said: "The production of new chips is a challenge for Sony, which is inexperienced in graphic chips. I'd say Sony's target of selling two million new PlayStations by the end of next March is ambitious. "Sales won't reach even half of that," he warned. Ant the same time, Masahiro Ono, an analyst at Warburg Dillon Read, claimed the best Sony can do will be to ship one million PlayStation IIs in early December. The consensus among these and other analysts is that Sony will be forced to drastically recalculate the PlayStation II's anticipated sales figures -- say, 200,000 to 300,000 -- or push back the launch date. Either course would be highly embarrassing. The heart of the PlayStation II is the so-called Emotion Engine CPU, jointly developed by Sony and Toshiba. Toshiba, of course, is well-experienced in the semiconductor market -- a fact that appears to have passed the analysts by -- and should be able to counter any deficiencies on Sony's part. Still, designing, fabbing and debugging a major new CPU platform is no simple task, and while the Emotion Engine isn't likely to be anywhere near as complex as Merced, the delays Intel has been forced to make on its 64-bit chip show that even the best laid plans often go wrong. Production of the chip is being handled by a Sony/Toshiba joint venture company -- Sony owns 49 per cent; Toshiba the remaining 51 per cent -- with the aim of offering the CPU to other companies. That puts pressure on the JV to get the chip right quite apart from the stress it's already in to keep Sony supplied with CPUs. Still, it's curious that a bunch of analysts have been wheeled out with some negative comments on Sony's console plans the day before Sega's rival machine, Dreamcast, is to make its much-heralded US and European debut. The PlayStation II is certainly the biggest threat to the success of the Dreamcast, despite the latter's long lead. ®

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