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Linux PlayStation2 to be released in US

Sony blurs line between games console and PC

Sony will launch a Linux-enabled version of its PlayStation2 in the US, an executive from the company confirmed yesterday.

In the opening keynote at the Rambus Developer Forum in San Jose, Shin'ichi Okamoto, senior vice president and chief technical officer, said that although he couldn't provide a US release date yet, "We'll be able to announce it soon."

A kit allowing the PlayStation2 to run Linux was announced for the Japanese market in May, with a launch scheduled for June. At that time, company executives had not solidified plans for a US launch of the kit.

"We are preparing the finalised Linux kit for the worldwide market," Okamoto said.

During the presentation, another Sony employee demonstrated Linux running on the PlayStation2 platform, running the X-Windows graphical user interface. During the demonstration, show attendees saw a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and an MP3 player running on the system.

This is precisely the outlook we took in May — that with a Linux kit a PS2 can swiftly become a potentially ideal second PC, and could well be the only way Sony will fully compete with Microsoft's Xbox.

Okamoto also gave accolades to conference host Rambus, saying that the memory company was one of the most important contributors to the design and manufacture of the PlayStation2.

"We defined the main application on the PlayStation2 as Mpeg-2 (video) decoding," he said. "The solution was dual-channel RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic RAM) because Mpeg-2 decoding for high-definition images is very heavy." Each PlayStation2 uses 32MB of RDRAM.

Rambus was also instrumental in helping Sony boost internal bandwidth from 130MB per second on the first PlayStation to 3.2GBps (gigabytes per second) in the PlayStation2, Okamoto said.

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