Sony Set to Launch PlayStation 2

The power behind the PlayStation 2 is the Emotion Engine, its 300-MHz processor, developed by Sony and Toshiba. This chip handles twice as many floating-point operations per second as a 733-MHz Intel Pentium III, which translates to very good graphics, say analysts at MicroDesign Resources. Sony also includes a high-powered graphics synthesizer chip with 4MB of video memory and 32MB of high-speed Rambus memory.

Externally, Playstation 2 has two controller ports, two memory slots, two Universal Serial Bus ports, Sony's high-speed i.link port, a Type III PC Card slot, an AV multicable output, and an optical digital output. Sony hasn't mentioned a built-in modem; the system will likely support an external modem.

The unit runs PlayStation 2 and original PlayStation games, as well as DVD movies and audio CDs.

The PlayStation 2 costs about $368 in Japan (Sony won't even hint at a U.S. price) and the company says it expects to ship 1 million units in the first week. If that comes true, Sony will be on course to leave Sega in the dust: The Dreamcast sold about 1.5 million units in North America over five months.

PlayStation's Game

But dominating the game console market may be just the beginning of Sony's ambitious plan. Last September, Sony executives said the PlayStation 2 would become a "platform for Internet-based electronic distribution of digital content in 2001." They also noted that one day you'll be able to download content to a Sony hard drive connected to a PlayStation 2 via a network adapter expansion module.

Consider the advent of Web-based applications, the proliferation of e-mail, and the ever-broadening interest in Web content. A game console that can surf and store data could handle an awful lot of tasks that many people do with a home PC.

Shortly after those comments, Sony seemed to stop talking about PlayStation 2. Representatives from Sony Computer Entertainment America declined comment for this report, and the recent PlayStation 2 festival in Japan offered a peek but little insight.

But perhaps the console speaks for itself. Jeff Brown, director of corporate communications at Electronic Arts (which makes games for both consoles and PCs) says the PlayStation 2 is a very impressive machine.

"This technology will make interactive entertainment a mainstream pastime," he says, after running his own software on the PlayStation 2.

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Tom Mainelli

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