Sony to Introduce Media-centric Gaming Box

EE Times and IGN report on the introduction of a new gaming console by Sony. Not, it’s not the much vaunted PS3, which is still supposedly on track for 2005 but something much more interesting (at least to me): a PS2 gaming box that also includes a progressive DVD player and recorder, a 120Gb Hard Drive, TV tuner, an ethernet port, USB 2 connection, and a memory stick reader. Looking at the back of the box, it looks like it will also include telephone connectivity, DVI out and a way to get component video and Svideo both in and out of the system. To run all this, they seem to have developed an innovative interface that shows their intent to play in the music, video, game, television, and more space.

That’s a lot of things, if you think about it, for a single device but it points to a variety of possibilities. For starters, it makes it pretty clear that gaming consoles are growing up. With this device, Sony is signaling its intent to take its leadership in the gaming world and extend into a more widespread all/media space, serving as a home server for any bits that gets into the house.

The broadband connection, combined with DVD burner, hard drive, and an interface that includes video seems to point to the possibility of their offering a video on demand service in the future, as well as music on demand or something similar. The presence of the memory stick slot increases that chance as people could buy music online, burn it on the memory stick and play it in their Sony Clie or other Sony MP3 player. Alternately, this slot could be used to upload pictures from cameras that have a memory slot (and those cameras are made by… Sony)

The demonstration on the interface video seems to also point to the possibility of integrating video and music. Could it be the beginning of an integrated suite that would allow people who bought a Sony video camera to quickly edit their films, add some music from the Sony music store, and then burn it to a DVD or ship the movie over a broadband connection?

The presence of a TV tuner and hard drive should definitely send shivers down Tivo‘s back, as it points to a built-in digital video recorder being pretty much a sure thing with this. With the DVD burner, one could easily then copy the shows to a DVD too!

There seems to be so many possibilities. Considering the fact that Sony owns movie studios, music studios, and gaming companies, it will be interesting to see how they shape their business model around this. Furthermore, it’s going to be interesting to see what Microsoft will try to do as a counter-move.

One question remains though, why is Sony coming out with such a device in late 2003-early 2004, when it is supposed to come out with the PS3 in 2005. Is there a chip in there (or maybe there’s something in the software) that would eventually allow for an automatic upgrade to the PS3 engine? Or could it be that the PS3 will be delayed to late 2005-early 2006, leaving this box as a stopgap measure before Microsoft comes out with Xbox 2?

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