Sony Computer Entertainment head says the PS3 is a home media and entertainment supercomputer, and not just a games machine.
When the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000, it broke the gaming console mold by including support for playing DVDs. Now, Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, is portraying the PlayStation 3 as an all-around entertainment and media machine that will not only play games, but will also store and play back video. In a series of two interviews with Impress PC Watch, Kutaragi revealed that the PlayStation 3 will become an "entertainment supercomputer" for the home.
"The PlayStation  is not a game machine. We've never once called it a game machine," stated Kutaragi at the beginning of his latest interview. "The PS3 is the product we have been aiming for since the establishment of SCEI", said Kutaragi. "We haven't been creating our [past] PlayStations for the sake of games. Our belief, and the motivation behind running our company, has been to (explore ways of) applying the power of computers to entertainment and enjoyment. We equipped the original PlayStation with a 3D graphics chip, and we equipped the PS2 with the Emotion engine. The PS3 isn't designed to lean towards games. It's not a computer for children. In the sense that our goal has been (to create) a computer that's meant for entertainment, you could say that the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 had existed as steps towards the PlayStation 3."
"With the original PlayStation, our intentions were to bring SGI-quality graphics into households. With the PS3, our intentions have been to create a machine with supercomputer calculation capabilities for home entertainment. That's why we teamed up with IBM, which is known for its supercomputers, and codeveloped the Cell together with them and Toshiba," said Kutaragi.
"PCs that are currently available have been created as work tools. They've begun selling computers with media playback capabilities, such as the Media Center PC, but those just imitate the functions of home electronics. It's not like those machines have been created solely for entertainment. On the other hand, the PS3 has been created [specifically] as a computer for entertainment. Entertainment refers to a lot of things, and not just to games. The PS3 will be able to provide powerful functions for all of the [imaginable] forms of entertainment," commented Kutaragi.
When asked about the difference in concept between Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, Kutaragi commented, "I can understand the (Xbox 360's) approach of adopting multiple, all-purpose processors. However, that will just raise integer calculation capabilities, and it will only benefit general applications. It will increase the machine's capabilities as an all-purpose computer, but it won't change the types of entertainment. On the other hand, the Cell (which is said to specialise in floating point calculations in comparison to normal CPUs) was created to 'generate', or, in other words, to produce virtual objects and phenomenons inside the computer.
"We want to realise a new future in entertainment with the use of computers. For example, we showed the demo with the ducks moving in a physics simulation during the press conference. That was a virtual world that was being 'generated' inside the PS3 (using the Cell's processing power). Just raising the graphics capabilities and output resolution won't change anything from the current world of video game consoles," said Kutaragi. He went on to say that Microsoft's new game console is more of an "Xbox 1.5" than a new console, in the sense that it seems like an extension of the original Xbox.
Kutaragi gave one example of how the PS3's powerful calculation abilities and broadband network connection could be used for new and original entertainment endeavours. "Users will be able to store their content in an online storage server called the 'Cell Storage'. And the Cell processor, when it's not being used, can refine the content's quality. We call it the 'ageing' process. For example, users can 'age' their Standard Definition (SD) video and up-convert it to High Definition (HD) video. We have many plans (for the PS3), but this 'Cell Storage' service is something that we definitely intend to launch. By using the Cell's security feature, users will be able to rip DVDs that include copyright protection and lay it in the storage area to refine its video quality."
As the company revealed during E3, it's teamed up with leading PC graphics card maker Nvidia to create a new graphics chip, called the RSX, for the PS3. "Our new GPU has been co-created with Nvidia. I drew a road map for the future together with (Nvidia president) Jen-Hsun, and the starting point of that road map is the RSX. Many people seem to think that the PS3's GPU is an upgraded model of GPUs for the PC, but it actually has a completely different architecture," explained Kutaragi, whose comments seemed to indicate that the two companies might work together again on the inevitable PlayStation 4.
When asked about the decision to add an SD memory slot to the PS3, Kutaragi commented, "SCEI and PlayStation will openly adopt world standards that have a good reputation amongst technicians. So SD Cards and Memory Sticks are the same to us. We will treat them equally, and we won't follow an independent path."
"In terms of codecs, the Cell has the power to easily transcode high-quality (pictures and audio) in real-time. So (file) formats won't really be too important," added Kutaragi.
Sony officially announced its next-generation gaming console just before the opening of last week's E3 in Los Angeles. Check out CNET.com.au's previous PS3 coverage for more information and specifications on the machine.
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