Who would have thunked it, the Sony PS3 has run into yet more trouble before it has even made it into the shops. Well I would have for a start, the project has been plagued with bad planning, bad marketing and bad luck since the get go. The decision to showcase shiny new technology when existing, or at least somewhat modified existing technology, would have been sufficient (ladies and gentlemen I present the Xbox 360 in evidence) was always a little baffling. Sure, you can understand Sony wanting to show off, wanting to flip the bird to Microsoft. What I cannot understand is why it would want to risk the very thing that gives it that position of power in the first place, the stranglehold it has on the console marketplace, the joined-at-the-heart bond it has with teenagers everywhere.
That is what looks like being chipped away, ironically by the here and now Xbox 360, as would be PS3 users become disenchanted and realize that they cannot play games on vaporware. Yes, both Blu-ray and the Cell processor are very real technologies. Nevertheless, no, both cannot be produced in high enough numbers to satisfy launch demand if the rumors widely circulating in the games development community and technical press alike are to be believed.
First, there is that Cell processor which, according to the VP of semiconductor and technology services at IBM, is slow going with only a small fraction of Cell CPUs coming off the line being fully functional. Tom Reeves is even quoted as going as far as admitting that they are lucky to achieve a 10% to 20% yield, and that is halved when you build logic redundancy into it. Things will not be quite as bad for Sony as it only requires 7 functional Synergistic Processing Elements compared to the 8 at IBM. Even so, that would at best mean a yield in the region of 30% to 40% max, surely not enough to meet the likely global demand for a festive season launch this year.
Things are little better when it comes to Blu-ray, with the Commercial Times newspaper in China reporting that Sony cannot meet production demand for that either. Specifically the problem would appear to be with the production of the blue laser diode component, and it is a problem impacting upon Nichia Corp as well as Sony. Guess who Sony is collaborating with to provide laser diodes to pretty much the entire Blu-ray device manufacturing market? Yep.
The cynic in me says that maybe, just maybe it is all a marketing ploy to create that ‘sorry sold out’ pre-order mentality so important in setting the scene for any new games console launch. Somehow, given the head-start Microsoft has already had with the Xbox 360, and the likely on-target launch of the Nintendo Wii, I cannot believe that to be the case.
One thing is for sure: the smart money says place those pre-orders now and start working on your eBay sales template if you want a nice little Christmas bonus to help with the holiday shopping bill…