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Sony, AOL to bring Net to PlayStation 2

Japanese giant starts to move against Microsoft and Xbox

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Sony has recruited AOL to provide Net access for its PlayStation 2 console, clearly part of its strategy to fight Microsoft's Xbox if the timing of the announcement and the schedule for the services the partners will provide are anything to go by.

The pair's announcement came this morning, ahead of the big splash Microsoft is expected to make at the E3 games show later today. The software giant will reveal just how it's going to spend $500 million persuading console gamers to move to Xbox.

The Sony-AOL deal will see the ISP port its Instant Messenger and Net access software over to the PlayStation 2. It will also port Netscape Navigator too. For its part, Sony will finally ship a modem - or "network adapter" as Sony calls it - for the console.

All these goodies are due by the end of the year, in line with Microsoft's Xbox launch schedule.

Sony is also preparing a hard drive, XGA LCD panel, mouse and keyboard, all of which will help turn console into a computer. All that's missing is an operating system, and we can't help but wonder if Sony might end up buying Be after all. The OS vendor is certainly looking for a buyer or a white knight, and its BeIA Net appliance-oriented OS is already being used by Sony for the consumer electronics giant's eVilla appliance.

Whatever, with Microsoft now defecating on Sony's digital doorstep, we'd be surprised if Sony doesn't line up other anti-Microsoft partners.

Sony will link through to AOL's Internet features through its PS2 software development kit (SDK), allowing games developers to tie in their titles to the Net for multi-player gaming and ancillary services such as player-to-player chat. ®

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