Thursday: Sony magic

Thursday 15/05/2003Back in London, to an announcement that Sony is going for the jugular in the portable games console market. It's always been a hole in their product line, especially for a company with such a strong track record in portable devices.

Thursday 15/05/2003
Back in London, to an announcement that Sony is going for the jugular in the portable games console market. It's always been a hole in their product line, especially for a company with such a strong track record in portable devices. They didn't make the first transistor radio and they didn't make the first portable cassette player, but it's as if they did -- in both cases, they defined the market. Nintendo got there first on portable gaming and has seen off countless competitors. Now, Sony thinks it's got enough of a technological lead to carve out a decent niche for itself. Perhaps it has, but tech advantages have never been enough in the past. We've got eighteen months of guessing what the thing will be like, which presumably means they've specced enough of it out to get the developers going. It'll have a new, proprietary data storage device -- UMD -- being an optical disk with nearly two gigabytes capacity, as well as some fancy-pants display and Sony's own home-grown chips. Doubtless, it'll be spiffing. And doubtless, it'll not run PS2 games. For no matter what Sony goodness the thing has, it'll live and die by its software -- and even with Nintendo, developers have found the portable market hard going. The Game Boy Advance promised much and sold in gratifying quantities, but the games themselves didn't follow suit. Perhaps it was format fatigue, with too many companies turning out too much the same, perhaps it was pricing, perhaps it was just that people don't play nearly as many handheld games as they do consoles. But people got burned -- Sony may have its work cut out prodding coders into action. Whatever. I can't wait to see this thing, and I don't even play games. Some of the old Sony magic still works.

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