Sony Debuts Portable PlayStation, PS2 Hard Disk

TOKYO (06/08/2000) - Not waiting long for the dust of the PlayStation 2 launch to settle, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) today attempted to breathe new life into its first generation PlayStation platform with the launch of a new portable console. At the same time SCEI unveiled an anxiously awaited hard disk drive and broadband network adapter for its recently launched PlayStation 2 console.

At a Tokyo press conference this afternoon SCEI President Ken Kutaragi announced the new hardware, led by a new machine that he described as "friendly and cute."

The new PS One is a portable version of the first generation PlayStation games console and will be able to play all games written for the original model. It retains much of the styling of the original console but is just one third the size and, at 550 grams, one third the weight.

SCEI paints a picture of the machine as one that is truly portable but, until early 2001, it will still be a console that is tied to use wherever a television is present. That will change early next year when it will put on the market a monitor unit featuring a 4-inch color LCD (liquid crystal display) panel that will allow users to play games anywhere they are, but within reach of a power outlet. The new machine won't run on batteries -- a decision Kutaragi said was made because of the short battery life that could be expected and the likely annoyance to users when, half way through a game, the power runs out.

The PS One will go on sale in Japan on July 7 priced at 15,000 yen (US$142) or around 5,000 yen more than the original PlayStation console is now selling for in Japanese electronics stores. With the launch of the new machine SCEI can potentially breathe some more life into the platform, which has lately been eclipsed by the recently launched PlayStation 2 system.

An additional adapter, which SCEI said it will sell from this winter, enables the new PS One, PlayStation and PlayStation 2 to be connected to cellular telephones. This, said Kutaragi, will open the door to new network services such as online gaming, downloading of games and provision of information.

When it first comes on the market the system will only be able to access the network at a leisurely 9,600 bits per second (bps) thanks to the limitations of current cellular technology but, said a company spokesman, the real goal is the next generation cellular systems which will support data transmission at speeds up to 384K bps. NTT DoCoMo Inc., with which SCEI has already secured a deal for the new service, is scheduled to launch such a network in the Tokyo area in May 2001.

Faster network access is also on the cards for owners of the new PlayStation 2.

A new combined hard disk drive and network adapter was also announced by Kutaragi. He said the company has yet to come to a decision on the size of the hard disk -- stuck between a will to make it large, so as to enable as many types of uses as possible and a wish to keep the price low.

The unit, which is expected to go on sale late this year in Japan, also features a 100M bps Fast Ethernet adapter to allow for connection to broadband networks such as those now being rolled out by cable television companies.

Kutaragi said he envisages the hard disk opening up new options for game writers because of the higher data rates possible from a hard disk against existing optical disk-based storage. One use of the system might be the regular downloading of multi-episode games, SCEI said.

Sony Computer Entertainment, in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.scei.co.jp/.

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