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PlayStation 3 to ship 2002

Sony exec hints at rapid evolution of Emotion Engine, PlayStation line

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Head of Sony's PlayStation operation Ken Kutaragi today pledged to drive the technology behind the company's Emotion Engine processor line -- the heart of the upcoming PlayStation 2 -- way beyond that of Intel's Pentium family within the next six years. And he hinted at the rapid evolution of future versions of the PlayStation and its chip pushing its upgrade cycle into something more akin to that of the desktop PC. Right now, said Kutaragi, speaking at the autumn's Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, California, the latest Pentium III chip contains around 10 million transistors -- the same as the first Emotion Engine. Both are constructed using 0.18 micron processes, but as process technology pushes to 0.13 micron and beyond, Kutaragi claimed, the next two generations of Emotion Engine will eclipse Pentium's transistor count. Emotion Engine 2 is slated to appear in 2002 and will contain some 50 million transistors. Its successor, known by the ambiguous moniker Emotion Engine 3, will sport half a billion transistors shoehorned onto the die by a 0.1 micron process. Of course, the projected arrival of both chips suggests Sony is planning to update the PlayStation 2 rather more quickly than that machine will supplant the original PlayStation. The gap between PSX 1 and 2 is five years (1994 to 1999), but according to Kutaragi's presentation, the PlayStation 3 could appear in three years' time -- just two years after the debut of the PlayStation 2. The next-generation of Sony's Linux-based PlayStation development system is due in 2002, and it too appears geared to tie in with the release of the second version of Emotion Engine and PlayStation 3. Sony is describing the system not only as a video game development system but also as the basis for creating real-time digital entertainment content. Curiously, a second slide dates the PlayStation 2 launch to 1999, perhaps confirming the claim that Sony's original release date for the 128-bit console was the end of this year, and that the company was indeed forced to push the launch back three months to March 2000. As appealing as Sony's projections for the rapid evolution of the PlayStation are, getting a third generation out in 2002 seems optimistic. While the chip and hardware development programmes appear eminently achievable, it takes time to build up a user base for the current version, and that usually hinders the rapid release of new versions -- few people are willing to buy a platform that will not be supported in just a couple of years' time. Of course, Sony has an advantage here -- the PlayStation 2 will be the first games console to offer backwards compatibility. If future versions of the machine continue to offer that, users can ditch their hardware but retain their software investment, and that could easily persuade them to upgrade -- or at least to do so with less reluctance. Kutaragi reiterated Sony's broad plan to put the PlayStation 2 at the heart of digital home entertainment systems, ultimately as the medium through which digital music and movies are bought, downloaded and played, so if Sony can persuade buyers that the PlayStation 2 is more of a consumer electronics device than a computer, again that will make upgrades seem more attractive to the public. ® Related Stories Sony delays PlayStation 2 so kids can still sit tests Sony puts PlayStation 2 at heart of Net strategy

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