Sony have announced a deal with RealNetworks to embed RealPlayer 8 and other Real client technologies on PlayStation 2, and a similar deal with Macromedia for its multimedia content. The deals will allow users to tune into their favourite Real audio and video broadcasts over the Internet, and experience Flash animations and websites, effectively bringing the multimedia Internet to the console. The deals come only days after Sony's talks with AOL once again hit the headlines. Back in December AOL's pitch was deemed to be one of many, but six months later it's become clear that the two have finally agreed on terms, clearly in an attempt to outshine Microsoft/MSN at E3 when the sun rises on Los Angeles later today. Microsoft will use E3 to announce the real details of the Xbox - its launch date, starting line-up and such - and Sony will be hoping that these forward-thinking Internet deals will draw attention away from that. AOL's Instant Messenger and net access software will be ported to PlayStation 2, and Netscape Navigator will join it. Internet Explorer is not an option for obvious reasons, and although we quite like Opera AOL would prefer to stick to what they know. Sony, for their part, will ship a modem (or "network adapter" according to their press release). Sony's press release also includes details of a new hard drive for the PlayStation 2, and XGA LCD panel (similar to the fabled PSOne LCD panel), mouse and keyboard. The aim is to give the PS2 the ability to stand on its own two legs as a home computer substitute. As The Register pointed out, Sony's shadowy relationship with Be, makers of BeOS and BeIA, might be worth a bob or two if they need something to drive their console-come-PC. New revisions of the PlayStation 2 software development kit will feature AOL-inspired features, allowing developers to integrate the services in a way barely possible on the PC. For example, with tight integration of the AOL Instant Messenger, gamers would be able to chat away with people inside and outside the gaming environment. Given today's announcement regarding RealNetworks, we'd be surprised if the SDK doesn't go under the knife again to help take advantage of that. We certainly admire Sony's courage in making a move on Microsoft's PC domain. Finding alternatives to things like DirectX, Internet Explorer and Windows Media may seem easy in the short term, but we fear for the company in the long term. DirectX 8 is one of the most advanced graphics APIs we've encountered, and the Internet Explorer 6 preview we've been playing with is superb. As for Windows Media, Microsoft's WM8 page features some very speculative claims about the technology's compression algorithms. For example, Microsoft claim to have near-DVD quality video compressed to 500Kbps, enough to transfer over a standard ADSL line. Real media has a long way to come in light of that, and some would argue that it hasn't really done anything to combat Windows Media since RP4 besides bloatwaring itself anyway. And as for Macromedia - any technologies it lends to PlayStation 2 will compete directly against themselves on Xbox. Sony's overall strategy is gradually becoming a little clearer, although at the moment they seem to be stepping toward making the PS2 into a full-blown computer. One supposes that this is intended to directly compete with Microsoft for the same market share, but with Xbox due before the end of the year and already well into the development stage, it's alarming that Sony are already playing catch up. Related Feature - Broadband Consoles - A Pipe Dream?
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