PlayStation 2 builds Internet arsenal

PlayStation 2's new market-conquering tools include RealNetworks' RealPlayer streaming audio and video technology, Macromedia's Flash Player high-impact animation software, America Online's (AOL) services and the adoption of Cisco Systems' latest Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) software. All of these new features not only indicate that PlayStation is preparing itself for its upcoming brawl against Microsoft's soon-to-arrive Xbox, but also that it is serious about staying on the cutting edge of Internet-based communications, incorporating features that rival business-class PCs.

SCEI's announcements Wednesday that it is allying with RealNetworks and Macromedia mean PlayStation 2 users will be able to view video on demand, download music, play Internet radio and receive news on their game centers, as well as view enhanced online animation. These added features came after Tuesday's announcement that AOL services such as instant messaging, chat and e-mail will be available on PlayStation 2. While these new features will extend PlayStation 2 users' Internet capabilities, it is the adoption of Cisco's IPv6 software, also announced Wednesday, that indicates the extent to which the number-one gaming center is becoming Web-centric. Answering the needs of an increasingly crowded Internet, the IPv6 software promises to offer expanded IP addresses, enhanced security and autoconfiguration for ease of installation. Sony has announced that it is adding it to PlayStation 2's Software Developers' Kit, which it says will enable game developers to create entertainment content based on the latest Internet technology.

Microsoft announced Wednesday at the Los Angeles Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), where Sony is rolling out PlayStation 2's new bells and whistles, that the much trumpeted Xbox is expected to be released Nov. 8. Xbox, which is being designed to take advantage of broadband Internet connections and which Microsoft claims will be three times faster than PlayStation 2, is set to rival Sony's dominance. More than 10 million units of PlayStation 2 have been shipped since its release in March of 2000.

While Sony moves to flex its muscles before Xbox enters the ring, the company's increasingly Internet-based strategy is moving gaming centers in a new direction, allowing users to expand upon their gaming experiences.

The company's goal is no less than to revolutionize the home entertainment market and communication itself, SCEI Chief Executive Officer Ken Kutaragi said in a statement.

Xbox or not, SCEI seems determined to move ahead.

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