Sony bows to pressure, unveils Linux for PS2

It will be available from June, in Japan only, according to Yuko Takano, a spokeswoman for the company. She did not rule out the possibility of developing the kit for international users in the future.

The beta version of the PS2 Linux Kit consists of a software DVD-ROM (Digital Versatile Disc), a hard disk drive unit, a USB (Universal Serial Bus) keyboard, a USB mouse, and VGA (Video Graphics Array) adaptor. At first, 1000 kits will be distributed through SCEI's web site and that number could be increased according to the demand, the company reported.

The price of the kit is expected to be 25,000 yen ($360).

The PS2 has been attractive to the Linux community as a platform since its appearance in March 2000 because of its ability to play game software with high-quality images and sounds at a high-speed.

"At a party this year, I had a chance to have a chat with Mr. Kutaragi (SCEI President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Kutaragi) and told him that I like the PS2 console but its game software is boring," said Masami Ogoshi, the chairman of the Japan Linux Association.

Ogoshi said that when he told Kutaragi he would be able to make more interesting games if there was Linux support for the PS2, Kutaragi suggested to him that pressure was needed from outside the company, as it had the product ready but was holding off on a launch.

"We campaigned for the potential of the PS2. With the Linux OS there are many possibilities, not only game software", said Ogoshi.

A petition calling for Linux support on the PS2 started in February had collected more than 7000 signatures worldwide by 4 May.

The company's decision was entirely motivated by the users' demand, SCEI's Takano said.

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