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March 2, 1999

SONY READIES PLAYSTATION 2

By CBR Staff Writer

Sony Corp will launch the next version of its Playstation games console in Winter 1999/2000 in Japan, with the rest of the world getting the machine in the fall of 2000. The machine, expected to be called Playstation 2000 will have DVD and CD-ROM capabilities and is said to be backwards compatible with the current version of the console. The multiprocessor system has a main CPU, a graphics processor, an audio processor and a multimedia processor. As we reported last summer (CI No 3,542), Sony has developed a new graphics rendering engine for the machine, which is said to deliver film-like graphics quality and high speed performance. The system uses MPEG-2 compression techniques, decompressing sprites as and when it needs to in real-time during the course of a game. The engine also has advanced rendering techniques, allowing realistic portrayal of natural surfaces, such as rock or wood, traditionally the hardest surfaces to represent realistically because of the amount of light and shade involved. The CPU is being produced by Californian system-on-a-chip company, LSI Logic Inc. The 32-bit MIPS processor is an upgraded version of the chip used in the current Playstation with new features such as Universal System Bus and 1394 (nee ‘Firewire’) interconnection support. Vern Klein, director of worldwide marketing at LSI sees the backward compatibility as the crucial factor in the new console. He claims that it is a feature that has never been offered on games consoles before and will be the crucial factor in helping Sony’s console win against the new generation of consoles such as Nintendo Co’s Dreamcast offering. The backwoods compatibility is achieved by offering a dual mode of operation – a 33.8688MHz mode which replicates the original Playstation processor – and an input/output mode that operates at 37.5MHz. The new processor has a 32-bit bus for a 12% hike in performance. The CPU only handles I/O data; the other dedicated processors deal with graphics, sound and streaming data. The multimedia processor used in the console has been developed by Toshiba Corp. Klein said that LSI had known for some time that it had won the deal for the CPU and that it had been rough because of the rumors that have been flying around over the last year that LSI had lost the contract with its single largest customer, Sony. These rumors had been fueled by the fact that Toshiba had presented a white paper with Sony about its 250MHz multimedia chip at the ISSCC conference in February. Klein says that initial revenues from the deal are expected to show in the company’s books around the end of this year. The royalties from the current Sony chip make up about 12% of the company’s current revenues. The original Sony Playstation has sold around 50 million units since 1994.

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