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Sony taps Linux for PlayStation development

Linux-based simulation will emulate the PlayStation's chip, enabling game developers to write code despite the fact that hardware isn't yet available.

Sony has tapped the Linux operating system for use in a simulation that will help developers come up with games for its next-generation PlayStation more quickly.

The simulation software, a mockup of the chip that will underlie future Playstation equipment, will enable game developers to write code despite the fact that hardware isn't yet available, said Scott Petry, vice president of marketing at Cygnus Solutions, the company that wrote the simulation software.

The software will run on Intel architecture computer systems running Linux, a Unix-like operating system.

Simulation is widely used to develop software for chips not yet available. Intel, for example, has a simulator to help companies such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Compaq, Santa Cruz Operation, Silicon Graphics, and Hewlett-Packard prepare their operating systems for Intel's next-generation 64-bit chips.

A Sony spokesperson declined to comment on why Sony chose Linux for the technology.

The PlayStation emulation software executes microprocessor instructions, Petry said. Its speed compared to the real thing isn't known because there's only a handful of chip prototypes in existence, he said.

Softimage, a graphics software division of digital video company Avid, also announced involvement in the next-generation PlayStation.

Softimage provides development tools to help authors construct three-dimensional animations and other fancy graphics features for current PlayStation game developers, and that work will continue with the future PlayStation as well, the company said Friday.

Softimage software currently is available for Silicon Graphics and Windows NT computers.

Microsoft, best known for its Windows operating system and office software, made a foray into the game development environment as the previous owner of Softimage. Before Microsoft sold Softimage to Avid in 1998, Softimage helped Microsoft create display technology for Windows such as Direct3D and DirectShow.

Several of Microsoft's games, including Age of Empires and Urban Assault, are available for the current PlayStation.

The upcoming PlayStation is the sequel to the current model, which debuted in 1994. It is scheduled to debut in Japan by March 2000 and elsewhere in the fall of 2000, according to Sony.

To keep up with the heavy graphics demands of video games, the new PlayStation will use a 128-bit chip built by Toshiba under a joint venture to be set up in April between the two companies. It will be made under the 0.18 micron process--meaning the chips use a manufacturing technology up to speed with the latest mainstream computer chips.