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Sega is looking to the emerging Internet appliance market as a new games platform as the company struggles to make its way in the PlayStation 2 era.

The games company today said it has formed a new operation, Sega Access, to develop networked multi-player gaming infrastructure software for Net appliances.

The new company is a joint venture with Access, a developer of software for Internet access set-top boxes. Sega Access has started operating with working capital of ¥50 million ($442,500). Sega has a 51 per cent stake in the firm; Access the remaining 49 per cent.

Essentially, Sega will supply games development expertise and content. Access brings embedded application code and middleware to the table. The upshot will be a platform Net appliance vendors can incorporate into their products to support "entertainment content" - by that, we take it Sega means streamed audio and video - and network gaming.

It's certainly an interesting move, and one that ties in with Sega's shift away from the console business toward software and services sales. The Net appliance market has so far failed to live up to pundits' predictions, but it could one day provide Sega with a broad platform to target with its games and services, in place of the rather more narrow Dreamcast platform.

Sega's online gaming service and ISP, SegaNet, already supports PC users in addition to Dreamcast owners, so it's no surprise the company is looking beyond the PC to other systems too. ®

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