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Sega plans high-speed cable TV Dreamcast Net access

Desperate attempt to compete with Sony's PlayStation 2?

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An a belated attempt to catch up with rival Sony, Sega is partnering with 30 Japanese cable TV companies to bring broadband Net access to its Dreamcast games console. According to reports in Japanese business paper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the 30 cable companies -- who together cover 70 per cent of Japan's cable TV viewers, in some seven million homes -- will resell Dreamcast/cable modem combos. Sega will provide cable customers with online games and a videophone service. Cable-based Dreamcast customers will be charged a fixed monthly fee for unlimited Net access, with connections up to 30 times faster than the Dreamcast's built in 56kbps modem can provide. The cable TV companies will be begin selling Dreamcast in April. That's one month after Sony's PlayStation 2 goes on sale in Japan, and this is really what this is all about. While Sega has promoted Dreamcast as a games console with Net access, Sony has long said it intends PlayStation 2 to be more than that. It wants to see the console as the interface between the Internet, home entertainment systems and their owners. In essence, it's the epitome of the information appliance concept. Sony's plan calls for the modem-equipped PlayStation 2 to be eventually hooked up to broadband Net access systems, ranging from satellite-based links to high-speed land line and mobile cellular connections. Then, so the plan goes, Sony can capitalise on PlayStation 2 to sell people digital music and movies, video-on-demand fashion. Clearly, Sega is beginning to wonder if it shouldn't be in the same game, and while Nihon Keizai Shimbun claims the companies strategy will also involve supplying digital media through the cable TV links, it's not certain when this will take place. More to the point, Sega needs something -- anything -- to help it compete with the mighty zillion dollar launch campaign that Sony has lined up to push PlayStation 2. Faster Net access is clearly the best it can do. ®

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