Ah, the challenges of being a game-console manufacturer. Blogger Sean Hollister at GameCyte says that Japanese tech news site PC Watch is reporting that, in a potential cost-savings move, Sony is considering using a tweaked version of PS3's current cell processor in the upcoming PS4--which isn't due out until at least 2010.
Unfortunately, I don't read Japanese, so I can't translate the article for you, but here's what GameCyte has to say:
"In a long technical analysis following the report, PC Watch voices the opinion that the PS4's performance would not increase significantly from that of the PS3 if this is true. While Moore's Law and the historical rate at which Sony has shrunk processors size would suggest that the cell processor could reach as many as 32 cores, PC Watch expects that the cost of redesigning the cell's layout--which has apparently remained the same as it has shrunk from 90nm to 65nm, and from 65nm to 45nm--would be prohibitive enough that Sony will stick with around 10 cores for the PS4."
PC Watch hasn't cited any particular source in its article, but apparently Sony's been asking some developers what they think of the idea. Hollister goes on to note that, "They [PC Watch] speculate that while Sony would like to distance themselves from the cell in the long run, at present they might do well to make use of their existing investment and expand the technical capabilities of the PS3-only moderately--a la the hardware transition from GameCube to Wii-- in order to constrain further expenditure."
Personally, I think the Wii's graphics suck--and most Wii games suck, too--but Nintendo hasn't exactly been hurt by any of that (though, I do think the mediocre graphics will seem overly retro sooner than Nintendo thinks). That said, the PS3's graphics are obviously starting from a much higher baseline than the GameCube's, and developers are just starting to get the hang of developing for the thing. So, it does make some sense for Sony to stand pat with the current cell processor and simply try to get the cost of the machine down to the point where it can move a ton of consoles and not lose money on each one. I'd guess that will be somewhere in the range of $250.
The basic problem for Sony is that, ideally, it wouldn't put out a PS4 until 2012 or even 2013. By that time it could recoup--or at least start to recoup--its initial investment on the PS3. But, a little company called Microsoft will undoubtedly push forward with an XBox 720--or whatever the 360's successor will be called--in 2010. And it will probably push the graphics envelope.
I'd like to see Sony just stick with the PS3 until 2012 and come out with a model that had a modified design (read: flat top) that would fit better in my equipment rack. This would be similar to what it did with the PS2; Sony could call it the PS3 Turbo Slim, or something like that. Have a couple of models, one that cracks the $200 barrier, and let Microsoft do what it's gotta do. Then come out with something a year or two after Microsoft does--but make sure it's actually superior (Sony's initial claims that the PS3's graphics would best the XBox 360's simply haven't been true).
Oh, and Sony? For those of us with universal remotes, please put an infrared port in whatever new machine you build.
Anybody else have any bright ideas for how the company should proceed with its PlayStation franchise? Thoughts on what the PS4 should be--or not be? And when would you like to see it arrive? Feel free to comment.