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Sony, AOL Turn PS2s Into Internet-Friendly Entertainment Centers

15 May, 2001 By: Hive News

Looking for an edge over Microsoft and Nintendo in the exploding game console sweepstakes, Sony Corp. and America Online have teamed up to turn PlayStation 2 consoles into all-in-one entertainment centers that allow consumers to watch movies, play games and surf the Web.

For AOL, PS2 is a way to offer its services to a broader audience through its AOL Anywhere strategy, which puts AOL on everything from cell phones to two-way pagers.

The deal will allow Sony toeventually deliver movies and music, as well as games, to consumers through the Internet, boosting the console beyond just a game machine.

"This will usher in a whole new generation of content," said Kazuo Hirai, president and c.o.o. of Sony Computer Entertainment of America. This holiday season Sony plans to sell networking adapters, hard disk drives, keyboards and even liquid- crystal display monitors to help launch the Internet phase of PS2.

"We've always said that this is the center of the home entertainment system," Hirai said.

Though details, such as cost, have yet to be worked out, users initially will be able to chat, and send e-mail and send instant messages while playing games. One game, Tribes 2, will let up to 64 people play together online.

Microsoft Corp., which plans to launch its Xbox consolewith a built-in high-speed ethernet adapter, is also poised to link its machine to the Web, but Xbox users shouldn't expect full-service Internet access until 2002. Nintendo Co.'s upcoming Gamecube will have a port that can accommodate a modem.

For the key console makers, bringing the Internet to consumers creates an opportunity to sell a broader selection of digitalentertainment, from extra game levels to MP3 songs. Consumers must have a place to store these files, and the Xbox will come with n 8-gigabyte hard drive. Sony plans to come out with a hard drive for the PS2 this winter with a minimum of 20 gigabytes. Each gigabyte can hold more than 15 hours of compressed music. A typical movie takes up 5 gigabytes.

"This will help build out Sony's entertainmentstrategy for the U.S. market," P.J. McNealy, senior analyst with the Gartner Group Inc. in San Jose, told the Los Angeles Times. "With things such as instant messaging, it makes buying the hard drive and modem more compelling."

The partnership gives AOL a chance to sell its service to millions of PS2 owners in the United States. AOL alreadyhas introduced its products on cell phones, pagers,Internet appliances and TV sets in an effort to ease its reliance on PC users.

The Sony-AOL agreement doesn't limit AOL from dealing with other console makers, and will allow players to use the AOL-owned Netscape Web browser on the PlayStation 2.

AOL and Sony willdemonstrate their technology this week during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

AOL and Sony are releasing their technology to game developers to design new software titles around the system's capabilities. The resulting games will be crucial in determining whether the partnership pays off, said McNealy.

"Just because Internet browsing capability is tiedinto the PlayStation 2 -- that doesn't make it a killer (application)," he said. "What will do it is great multiplayer games."

The PS2 claims about 3 million owners in North America.

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