Sony does not seem to have had a very happy Xmas if the various reports floating around the web are to be believed. Indeed, the third quarter financials which includes the holiday season show that the flagship PS3 console managed to sell some 440,000 units less than for the same period in 2007. This at the same time that Microsoft is claiming a bumper sales harvest for the competing Xbox 360 despite the well recorded hardware problems. With the Xbox already being updated to the new Jasper version to solve those red rings of death issues, and rumours of the Xbox 720 doing the rounds, Sony could do with some good news itself.

Unfortunately, no matter which way you spin it there is none. In fact the PS2, the PS3 and the PSP all performed badly compared with sales for the previous year. Even allowing for the economic woes we find ourselves in, this is bad news when you consider that the gaming industry seems to be doing pretty well overall. Certainly Microsoft and Nintendo do not seem to have the same sales problems that Sony face. Sales of the PSP dropped by 680,000 units and the PS2 (which is still selling relatively strongly as a budget buy) dropped by 2.88 million units.

While most industry pundits are now asking if Sony can afford not to slash the cost of a PS3 in the face of these figures, I wonder if there is another solution: the PS4. There has already been much speculation regarding possible release dates for the PS4, but now it looks like we might actually get an idea of what such a beast will be like after a leaked development document found its way online.

The original leaked document in Japanese can be found here while a roughly translated version resides here.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, if this document is to be believed, is that the PlayStation 4 will not be an all new machine, but rather will build upon the existing CELL processor architecture with the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell BE). This is actually good news, I reckon, because it will keep costs down which is something Sony has not done in the past. It would also enable games developers to hit the road running, without the entire new development cycle and investment required when everything changes. If this document is legit, Sony might just have stumbled upon a strategy that can save the day.

Best of all, there's a date mentioned in the document for release which kind of gels with previous rumours of 2011 so we might not have that long to wait to find out.

Sony, of course, flat out denies everything.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.