The PlayStation 2 hardware is to be integrated into a new home media device from Sony's consumer electronics department, codenamed the PSX, as the Japanese giant struggles to extend the success of its games division to other operations.
The new device will feature a TV tuner, hard disc drive and a DVD recorder alongside the games console functionality, making it into an "all in one" device for gaming, media recording and playback.
Details of the device are a bit thin on the ground at the moment, but it's expected that it will offer hard disc video recorder functions, similar to the TiVo and Sky Plus systems, and will feature a high speed internet port to allow downloads of music and possibly movies through Sony's media distribution systems, in Japan at least.
It's not clear whether "PSX" is going to be the final name of the product, or whether it's a development codename - either way it's a little bit odd, since PSX was the project name behind the original PlayStation development, and persisted as an acronym for the console throughout its lifespan.
The announcement (which has been misinterpreted by some as a PlayStation 3 announcement, something it most definitely is not) is a clear signal of Sony's future hardware policy, which is likely to see PlayStation technology (and other forthcoming related technology from the Sony Computer Entertainment division, such as the Cell microprocessor) integrated into as much of the company's line-up as possible. At E3 this year Sony announced the PlayStation Portable (PSP), described by SCE boss Ken Kutaragi as the "walkman for the 21st century" - another extension of the powerful PlayStation brand and technology into a new area.
In recent years, the profitability of the videogame division at Sony has far outstripped the performance of the rest of the consumer electronics division, and this strategy is clearly designed to inject that success into the ailing consumer products sector. It comes following the announcement of a major quarterly loss a month ago, Sony's largest in eight years, and dismal projections for operating profits in the current financial year.
One serious question raised by the PSX (and to a lesser degree by the PSP) is what they mean for the development schedule of the PlayStation 3. Nobody seriously expected that console to appear before 2005 in the first place, but with a new multi-function version of the PS2 now set to debut later this year, and a handheld device arriving at the end of next year, questions must be asked over whether Sony really plans to do major games hardware launches three years in a row - particularly in light of rumours that mass-production of the Cell processor will not come online in time for a 2005 launch.