Sony puts PlayStation 2 at heart of Net strategy

Console provides missing link between IT and home entertainment

Sony today took the wraps off the PlayStation 2 and immediately positioned the devices beyond its games console roots, promoting it as a home's gateway to digital content distributed via the Internet. It's a canny move, and while the PlayStation 2 isn't the first console to embrace the Net -- Sega's Dreamcast is already shipping with a built-in modem and a Web browser -- Sony is looking at the Internet as something more than a source of information. The machine will ship with a 4x speed DVD-ROM drive to support existing media, but it will also contain an Ethernet port to allow users to hook it up to broadband Internet access devices such as a ADSL and cable modems. The plan isn't simply to allow the PlayStation 2 users to view the Web more quickly, but to use the Internet as a storage medium in its own right. So, Sony will be posting PlayStation 1 and 2 software online for download backed up by an e-commerce. Built-in encryption and authentication technology -- possibly based on Sony's MagicGate -- will provide protection against piracy, even though downloaded material will be stored on removable memory card media or plug-in hard drive units. The machine's own memory bank consists of 32MB of Rambus Direct DRAM. Right now, the focus is on the delivery of games via the Net, but the plan clearly ties in neatly with Sony's other media endeavours, initially the delivery of music, and later, movies. The PlayStation 2 features FireWire/IEEE 1394 and digital optical hi-fi ports to allow it to be connected not only to devices like digital cameras, but to other consumer electronics kit. That will, in Sony's eyes, put the PlayStation 2 at the heart of the networked home. Download an album via your PlayStation 2 then immediately blast it out through your amplifier and speakers -- that kind of thing. The PlayStation 2 is set to ship in the US and Europe this time next year, but Sony's proposed online e-business infrastructure won't be in place until 2001. Clearly it has some way to go to convince music, movie and software companies that its approach is sufficiently secure, but there's also the issue of consumer acceptance of the new medium. Given the slow speed at which the public is taking to new consumer technologies, such as digital TV and DVD, it's likely to be some time before buyers are ready to embrace buying albums and movies in a non-physical format, and it makes sense for Sony to focus on selling the PlayStation 2 as a games console before pushing its wider usage. It also needs time to support home networking infrastructures in its other consumer electronics goods. ® Related Stories PlayStation 2 ship date slides three months

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