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AT&T gets exclusive on Sony PlayStation Vita

Extends networked devices strategies for both companies, as ARM looks for console move from handheld to full-sized products

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 8 June, 2011

READ MORE: US | Sony Corp | AT&T | Games

Despite all the question marks over its network quality in recent years, AT&T still gets strong device exclusives, with the upcoming Sony PlayStation Vita the latest example. The firm's ambitious strategy to look beyond handsets to other device types, and its support for the global GSM/HSPA standards, both continue to attract big brands, even if Verizon now has an iPhone too.

The PlayStation Vita is the next portable games console from Sony and will include Wi-Fi and also a 3G connection, provided in the US by AT&T. The device will cost $299 in the US and € 299 in Europe. It represents the burgeoning line-up of portable media and data gadgets that feature embedded cellular connectivity, which give carriers a chance to extend their consumer reach and their business models. AT&T has hinted that it will soon introduce 'data bucket' tariffs that would allow a single customer to purchase a data plan and share it flexibly between multiple devices, rather than purchasing a separate deal for each one.

It is not just the carriers which are looking to increase their influence over customers by supporting a wide range of mobile products. The same is true of the vendors, and the Vita is an important part of Sony's networked device strategy, which will see the whole gamut of its consumer electronics offerings - TVs, consoles, media players and digital cameras - connected to one another and to multiscreen content held in the cloud. The handset is somewhat sidelined in this vision because it sits in the Sony Ericsson joint venture, but is expected to become increasingly integrated into the Sony roadmap. Of course, Sony has suffered a huge setback in its networked-everywhere plan recently, with the repeated hacking of its systems.

The Vita will have a 5-inch OLED display and a rear touchpad, and will offer titles at launch including 'Uncharted: Golden Abyss' and 'LittleBigPlanet', said the firm.

Also in the console world, a market report from Semicast Research claims ARM-based processors are about to penetrate this market segment, hurting the incumbent PowerPC architecture. Semicast forecasts that Microsoft will increasingly turn to an ARM platform to span mobile devices and Xbox, speculating that it will get closer to Nvidia for this reason. ARM has already displaced a MIPS design in the Sony Vita, while Nintendo's DS and 3DS have always been ARM-based. This strength in the handheld segment will be a good springboard to propel the architecture into the full-sized gaming consoles, says the report.

The three main products in this category - Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 - all use a PowerPC architecture. "Semicast judges it unlikely that x86 will be used in any of the next generation of consoles, so the question is can ARM break the current dominance of Power Architecture?" asked senior anlayst Colin Barnden. But while Xbox looks ripe for a change, Sony is almost certain to continue to use its Power-based Cell Broadband Engine in the Playstation 4, while Nintendo is also unlikely to desert its IBM processors for the Wii in the immediate future.

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