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Sony buys PlayStation emulator

Settles three-year legal battle with Connectix out of court

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Sony has bought software developer Connectix's Mac-based PlayStation emulator, Virtual Game Station, settling the companies' bitter, three-year dispute.

Quite what Sony with do with VGS remains to be seen. The obvious option is to kill it stone dead, but Connectix's arguments that the emulator opens new markets for PlayStation software remains valid. Now that Sony is focusing on PlayStation 2, code that allows old games to run on new platforms may appeal to it, particularly if it controls how they do so.

The official statement gives few clues. It talks about defining "a series of development initiatives in the area of advanced emulation solutions", which means they talk about talking about developing emulators.

That sounds like just so much truth-hiding spin to us. Take this comment from Connectix chief Roy MacDonald: "Our new agreement with SCE gives us the resources to move rapidly into a wide range of exciting new applications for our core emulation and virtual machine technologies. We believe that this collaboration can lead to improved development tools, innovative consumer products and productive enterprise solutions."

All this actually says is that Connectix will take Sony's money to create new products. The "core emulation and virtual machine technologies" undoubtedly refer to the company's VirtualPC line of Mac-based x86 emulators. Connectix may extend it to other platforms, but don't expect them to be Sony machines.

Sony's purchase is nevertheless something of a victory for Connectix. After all the legal action, Sony has finally decided that it's cheaper to buy Connectix off than pursue the case. Given how Sony has always maintained that Connectix was in the wrong, the deal effectively says Sony doesn't care any more.

Sony launched its legal action back in January 1999 shortly after Connectix launched VGS. The Japanese giant claimed the emulator violated its intellectual property and copyrights, and encouraged piracy. Connectix beat Sony's demand for a temporary injunction blocking the sale of VGS, though it was prevented from shipping a planned Windows version.

Sales of VGS were later blocked through a preliminary injunction, but Connectix got them resumed on appeal. Sony immediately countered with a fresh, patent infringement suit. The Appeal Court said that it would have upheld the ban had Sony sued on those grounds.

Finally, last September, the companies began preparing for the final trial, scheduled for this month. Obviously, in the run up to this encounter the two parties decided they had had enough and settled out of court.

Connectix will continue to sell VGS until 30 June 30, at which point all of its VGS assets become Sony property. ®

Blatant Reg Speculation Warning

Not long after VGS was launched, it was rumoured that Apple wanted to buy Connectix's emulation technology. The Sony action would have put Apple right off that plan.

But here's a thought: Apple is rumoured to be working on a box based on AMD's Athlon processor. While MacOS X can relatively easily be ported over from PowerPC, what about the apps? Eventually developers would make the move, but it would take some time, and what about legacy applications?

Perhaps Apple is back in the market for emulation technology, this time to run PowerPC apps on x86. It might well turn to Connectix which, back in the early 680x0-to-PowerPC transition days, wrote a better 680x0 emulator than Apple could.

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Sony slaps patent suit on PlayStation emulator developer
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