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Kutaragi to pilot PlayStation development?

Vision too vague to be sure

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Whether Ken 'Father of the PlayStation' Kutaragi will get to work on the PlayStation 4 remains to be seen, but he's certainly talking like he is. And the PS5. And the PS6.

Speaking to electronics industry site EETimes, Kutaragi said: "As a matter of course, I have the vision of Playstation 4, 5 and 6, which will merge into the network."

Having a "vision" is one thing, realising it is another - especially if you're leaving Sony in June, as Kutaragi is. This week, Sony said Kutaragi will retire next month, at least from his twin positions as Sony Computer Entertainment's Chairman and its CEO.

Kutaragi will become a "senior technology adviser" to Sony chief Howard Stringer. That role may allow him to contribute directly to the ongoing evolution of the PlayStation. Or may simply be a way to stop him making a beeline for Nintendo.

Indeed, Kutaragi admitted in the interview future projects will be conducted well away from Sony.

But it's what - if anything - he'll do with the consumer electronics giant that will interest most observers, and for all he talks about being free new to talk about his plans, he doesn't say an awful lot. Future PlayStations will "merge into the network" thanks to the use of the Cell "network processor".

No surprise there - that's something Sony has been hinting at in discussions about Cell right from the day it first announced the chip. Cell was always about devising a highly connected processing architecture, and the company suggested one day all those internet-connected consoles co-operatively rendering stuff or running multi-user games without the need for colossal servers.

Will Kutaragi deliver such a vision, or is the PS4 doomed now that Kaz Hirai has an even stronger grip on the development of the console. That's what Nomura analyst Yuta Sakurai said last year, based on Hirai's apparent greater interest in software than hardware.

"The appointment of Hirai could be the start of a shift from hardware to software," Sakurai said. "I cannot now imagine a PlayStation 4."

We're not convinced, but what we can say is that all the trouble Sony has experienced getting the PS3 out of the door, and the console's relative lack of success, particularly against Nintendo's Wii, are certainly going to influence what form and funtion the PS4 eventually delivers. And we'd put money on a shift away from the 'as before, but bigger and better' strategy Sony has employed to date.

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