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Sony has inked a partnership with America Online in an effort to boost the online offerings of its PlayStation 2 vidgame console.

Through the deal, Sony Computer Entertainment and AOL will integrate Internet features such as instant mes-saging, chat, the Netscape browser and email into the PlayStation 2 system. Sony will build and sell the network adapter enabling consumers to access the Web-enabled features by the end of the year.

The two companies also will work together to create interactive game projects and develop hardware, such as a hard disk drive, displays, keyboard and mouse. PlayStation 2 customers will have to buy a modem to get the AOL service.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. PlayStation can now target AOL’s more than 29 million members, while AOL has access to PlayStation’s 30 million-plus owners.

The Sony-AOL arrangement doesn’t limit AOL from dealing with other console makers.

Move by PlayStation comes as Mi-crosoft is readying to bow its Xbox vidgame console this fall. Company has built a hard drive and access to the Internet into its console to push online gaming. However, Xbox users should not expect full-service Internet access until late next year.

Console wars are expected to heat up this week at the Electronic Enter-tainment Expo, which opens at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Thurs-day.

For AOL, the partnership is part of its plans to move aggressively into the arena of gaming and wireless devices. Not surprisingly, AOL and Microsoft are vying to become household enter-tainment brands across every platform from the PC to the TV screen.