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Alliance to Bring AOL to Sony's PlayStation2

Microsoft Corp. may be planning to reveal more details about the Xbox game console at the E3 Game Expo in Los Angeles Wednesday, but that console isn't expected to hit the market until around Christmas-time. Meanwhile, the PlayStation2 console from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) remains the undisputed king of the hill.

Sony moved to secure the future of its console Tuesday by striking an alliance with the world's largest Internet company, AOL Time Warner's subsidiary America Online Inc. Game console companies like Sony, and up-and-comers like Microsoft, have set their sights on becoming the hardware centerpieces of next-generation entertainment. And Sony said its strategic alliance with AOL is a major step in that vision's fulfillment.

Under the agreement Sony will work with AOL to bring AOL's instant messaging, chat, and e-mail to the PlayStation2, and, most importantly -- as far as gamers are concerned -- Internet-enabled games.

The two companies also plan to explore other entertainment opportunities, including broadband technologies and the development of a Netscape browser for PlayStation2. To further the experience of those features, Sony said a hard disk drive, LCD Display (NTSC/PAL and XGA compatible), keyboard and mouse will be available for the console by the end of the year. In addition, the AOL features will be incorporated with the PlayStation2 Software Development Kits available to content developers.

"Given our shared corporate vision and power for the evolution of online computer entertainment, AOL and SCEI make ideal partners," said Ken Kutaragi, president and chief executive officer of SCEI. "With AOL by our side, Sony Computer Entertainment will begin to provide the world's content creators access to a new community for digital entertainment and distribution. Just as PlayStation2 ushered in a new era of computer entertainment, we are now escalating the evolution of great gaming experiences into what will become a highly interactive, real-time broadband network environment."

And AOL said the deal is a perfect fit with its AOL Anywhere strategy.

"By combining AOL's industry-leading infrastructure and trademark convenience with the media-rich power of PlayStation2 to turbo-charge the gaming experience, we'll be able to provide our members with another exciting way to connect by extending our AOL Anywhere strategy to a powerful new interactive platform," said Barry Schuler, chairman and CEO of America Online Inc.

The two companies are jointly hosting technology concept demonstrations related to the alliance at Sony's booth at E3. The demonstrations include a version of the "AOL experience" on PlayStation2 as well as a Netscape browser for the platform.



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