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Web awaits Japanese PS2 owners

Japanese owners of Sony's PlayStation 2 game console now can swap e-mail and view Web pages via the machine.

Japanese PlayStation 2 owners now can swap e-mail and view Web pages via the game console.

Planetweb, a Redwood Shores, Calif.-based software maker specializing in applications for consumer electronics, announced Thursday the availability of Egbrowser, developed in conjunction with Japan's Ergosoft.

The software will work with PS2-compatible modems that connect through the console's USB (universal serial bus) port. Besides Web browsing and e-mail, the software supports MP3 music files and online features in development for current and upcoming PS2 games.

The software will come on a standard disc for PS2, will be sold either on its own or bundled with a USB modem, and will work with most Internet service accounts, said Ken Soohoo, CEO of Planetweb.

"It's just like any other software for the PS2: It runs off the disc and saves stuff like ISP settings on the memory card," he said.

The software will allow WebTV-style Web browsing and e-mail, Soohoo said, but the main function is to deliver online gaming content as it becomes available for the system.

"It's a totally different model from WebTV," he said. "Our main mission is to allow people to hook up and play games online."

Soohoo said development of a U.S. version of the software is up to Sony, which closely controls licensing of all PS2 products.

Online connections have emerged as one of the key arenas as Sony battles with Nintendo and with Microsoft's upcoming Xbox game console. The Xbox will ship with a built-in Ethernet port that will allow broadband Internet connections.

Microsoft announced an agreement last month with Japanese phone giant NTT Communications to provide online services for the Xbox. Nintendo's upcoming GameCube console will include support for broadband and dial-up Internet connections.