At the moment of writing, the PS3 is on the concept and contract stage. Different sources (ZDnet, The Register) claim IBM to design and produce the main new chip behind PS3. The chip, codename "Cell", is about the same for PS3 as the Emotion Engine is for PS2. Toshiba, who produced the Emotion Engine, will continue to produce other chips from the PS3. Shinichi Okomoto, the Senior Vice President of R&D at Sony Computer Entertainment, has claimed the PS3 to be "1000 times more powerful than the PS2". That's one ass-kickin' machine. According to the rumors, the PS3 is to be delivered in 2002, but this is highly unlikely and far from confirmed.

The PS2 promised a digital entertainment centre, and while Gran Turismo 3 is quite entertaing, the movie / music / gaming system have remained largely for gaming and nothing else. The initial promises from Sony was to have the multimedia box system fully developed by mid 2001. That hasn't happened yet, so many news sources speculate in the rumours of the Xbox-killer PS3. Sony also want to include full Internet access, with shopping functions, e-mail, web etc. This is in part why they chose IBM to deliver the chip, since IBM is a huge actor in the LAN and WAN arena.

2002 update: Sony announced plans for a hypothetical PS3 system. They announced that Moore's Law is too slow for PS3 and research parallel computing as an alternative. Okomoto also presented a parallel computing system made from 16 PS2s at a convention. Sony wish that the PS3 will be more than 1000 times faster and better than the PS2, and with some clever distributed computing, that may actually happen. Not in 2002, though. The PS3 will also have extended internet capabilities built in, some speculate that the games will be online-only.

May 2002 update: I did and article on the PS3, for you who read Scandinavian:
The news agency Kyodo tells us that the speed of the processor (Nicknamed The Cell will be more or less 200x faster than the current Emotion Engine, it will be stuffed with goodies like fiber-op network, HDTV-ready, DTS-ES ready and backwards compatible with Playstation and Playstation 2. The alleged breakthrough however, is in the processor. The new processor will be a single-chip parallel computing powerhouse of a chip. The unit is planned without a harddrive because Sony see it as an "always-on" device with constant access to the 'net. Never mind this being an "Xbox killer", the PSOne actually outsells the Xbox in Japan at the moment...

January 2003 update: Sony and Toshiba have licensed the Yellowstone RAM tech from Rambus. The Yellowstone tech is a high-speed CPU-RAM interface technology and this follows the RDRAM tech used in the Playstation 2. (Source: ZDNet).

May 2003 update: The E3 in Los Angeles has passed, with no more surprises in the PS3 field.
While we are waiting, here's some PS3 humour:

It's been a long ride, but the Playstation 3 has finally been launched. It went on sale in Japan from November 11, 2006, in the US an other parts of Asia on November 17, 2006, and in continental Europe around March 2007.

The PS3 is the first new console from Sony since March 2000, when the Playstation 2 went on sale. Considering how the PS2 went on to become the best-selling games console ever - with more than 110 million units sold world-wide - expectations for the Playstation 3 are sky-high.

A lot has changed since 2000, however. For one, a series of new competitors have entered the market: From November 2001, Microsoft's Xbox has been competing with Playstation (but sold less than a fifth of the number of units, compared to the PS2), but Microsoft beat Sony to the punch with their follow-up, and the Xbox 360 beat the Playstation 3 to market by a whole year. Facing the competition of 6 million Xbox 360 units already sold, along with the freshly-launched Wii console from Nintendo (which sold over 600,000 units in its first month on sale) the PS3 certainly has its job cut out.

At launch, two PS3 configurations are available. The top model has a 60 GB harddrive, Blu-Ray disc drive, HDMI connector, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in WiFi and a set of flash card readers built in. The lesser 20 GB version is similar, but lacks WiFi, card readers and has different trim.

With the original Playstation, Sony pioneered CD players into a market that was very Cassette-driven. PS2 brought DVD to the masses, and the PS3 contributes Blu-Ray as its cutting-edge technology. Because of this - and because of the overall high spec of the unit - the launch price of the Playstation 3 is significant, and has fallen under criticism from many sides. In Japan, the console launched at around US$660. In the US, launch price is around the same, but in the UK, early price indications are UK£ 549.99 (1050 US$) of the top model at launch.

Industry experts have estimated that it costs around US$800 to build the 20GB model, and around US$845 for the 60GB, signifying that they are losing a fair bit of money on the sale of each console. If sales go well, however, Sony can easily recoup the initial loss, as they can negotiate better deals with the suppliers, along with the natural price drop of the technology involved, and the licence money they command for each PS3 title sold.

At launch, about 20 game titles were available, but the PS3 is backwards compatible with many PS2 and PS1 games - but not all of them. According to a Sony Computer Entertainment press person, "It's hard to say the PlayStation 3 will be 100 percent backwards compatible, but as we said earlier this year, we aim to make it so as much as possible,"".

Technical specifications

Cell Processor
PowerPC-base Core @ 3.2GHz
1 VMX vector unit per core
512KB L2 cache
7 x SPE @3.2GHz
7 x 128b 128 SIMD GPRs
7 x 256KB SRAM for SPE

RSX @550MHz
1.8 TFLOPS floating point performance
Full HD (up to 1080p) x 2 channels
Multi-way programmable parallel floating point shader pipelines

Dolby 5.1ch, DTS, LPCM,

256MB XDR Main RAM @3.2GHz
256MB GDDR3 VRAM @700MHz

System Bandwidth
Main RAM 25.6GB/s
VRAM 22.4GB/s
RSX 20GB/s (write) + 15GB/s (read)
SB > 2.5GB/s (write) + 2.5GB/s (read)

Detachable 2.5" HDD slot x 1

USB Front x 4, Rear x 2 (USB 2.0)
Memory Stick (standard/Duo)
SD standard / SD mini
CompactFlash (Type I, II)

Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T) x 3 (input x 1 + output x 2)
Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)

Bluetooth (up to 7)
USB 2.0 (wired)
Wi-Fi (PSP)
Network (over IP)

AV Output
Screen size: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
HDMI: HDMI out x 2
Analog: AV MULTI OUT x 1
Digital audio: DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) x 1

Disc Media
CD: PlayStation CD-ROM, PlayStation 2 CD-ROM, CD-DA, CD-R, CD-RW, SACD, SACD Hybrid, SACD HD, DualDisc

DVD: PlayStation 2 DVD-ROM, PlayStation 3 DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW

Blu-ray Disc: PlayStation 3 BD-ROM, BD-Video, BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE

Lots more info is available on the official Playstation site:

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