Sony playing around with PS 2 console

Machine handles games, music, movies, TV, Internet

Sony has unveiled a powerful new home-entertainment machine built around its PlayStation 2 vidgame console that also includes a huge hard drive, recordable DVD capabilities and a TV tuner.

Announcement came during the company’s annual strategy meeting and caught the game business by surprise. It marks the second major entertainment hardware announcement by Sony in two weeks — neither of which, however, is the much-anticipated PlayStation 3 that would succeed the huge-selling PlayStation 2 platform.

Instead, Sony unveiled an all-in-one entertainment machine that can handle games, music, movies, TV and the Internet.

Though details were scarce, Sony’s demonstration appeared to indicate that users would be able to download games, movies and music from the Web, store them on the 120-gigabyte hard drive, play them back a la TiVo and make copies of them on recordable DVDs.

No price was given for the machine, called the PSX, but the original PlayStation 2 is now available for $179, and a slightly revamped model with built-in online capabilities will cost $199 when it debuts in June.

PSX far different

The PSX is a far different machine, however. It won’t hit shelves in Japan until late this year and the U.S. and Europe early next year. It’s the latest evidence that Sony plans to wring further revenues from its market-leading PlayStation 2 in the near term rather than focus on a next-generation machine. Latter probably won’t debut before 2005.

Announcement also marks a truce between Sony’s game and electronics divisions, which have long had little to do with each other despite obvious overlaps in hardware manufacturing and technology development.

After Sony’s disastrous recent earnings announcement, the company’s worst in years, execs promised to streamline operations and make the divisions work more closely to create new hardware offerings that would draw consumer interest.

In wake of PSP unveiling

The PSX announcement comes just two weeks after Sony’s executive deputy president, PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi, surprised observers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles by unveiling the PSP, or PlayStation Portable.

Handheld device, due out late next year, will be packed with high-end technology and aimed to challenge rival Nintendo’s biggest cash cow, the GameBoy Advance. Kutaragi called it “the Walkman for the 21st century.”

But Kutaragi and other execs have continued to stiff-arm inquiries about when Sony would release a successor to the PlayStation 2. The PS2 is easily the world’s most popular game machine ever, selling more than 52 million units worldwide.