A report in Taiwan's Commercial Times claiming that Sony was in talks with manufacturing companies to begin production of PS3 consoles with a view to a 2003 launch has been categorically denied by the company.
The newspaper story had claimed that Taiwanese parts suppliers, including current PS2 assembler Hon Pai Precision Industry, would be starting trial production of the PS3 next month, and that the first units would ship in Japan by the middle of the year - in an effort by Sony to capture more of the market by gaining a two year lead over its competitors next products.
Although the rumour was reported by several reputable news sources, its credibility wasn't exactly high in the first place - and a Sony spokesperson in Tokyo finally culled the story, pointing out that "decisions regarding the name, specifications, pricing and launch date of our next console haven't even been finalized yet." Perhaps more importantly, the CELL chip which will power the PS3 is barely out of the design stages and won't be mass-manufactured for a long time yet.
However, if you believe the maxim that there's no smoke without fire, one does have to wonder what those Taiwanese companies are actually doing. Perhaps they're engaged in one of Sony's periodic rethinks of its console internals - generally cost-cutting measures such as integrating more and more chips onto single dies - or could it be that Sony, like Microsoft, is planning to redesign its console in a move similar to the relaunch of the PlayStation as the PSone?