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NVIDIA partners with Sony on PlayStation 3 graphics hardware

Graphics card company NVIDIA partners with SCEI on next-generation console and other Cell-based hardware, in a "broad, multi-year, royalty-bearing agreement".

Graphics card manufacturer NVIDIA has revealed that it is collaborating with Sony on the graphics hardware for PlayStation 3, described as "SCEI's highly anticipated next-generation computer entertainment system" in press literature.

The companies have been jointly developing a custom graphics processing unit (GPU) incorporating next-generation GeForce technology - the graphics hardware behind NVIDIA's PC products - for the past two years, which will be used alongside SCEI's own system solutions for next-generation platforms featuring the Cell processor.

The move signals a shifting of allegiances for NVIDIA, who developed the graphics hardware at the heart of the original Microsoft Xbox, only for the Redmond-based platform holder to turn around and partner with fierce rivals ATI for "future Xbox products" last August.

The deal between NVIDIA and SCEI is described as a "broad, multi-year, royalty-bearing agreement," which will "encompass future Sony digital consumer electronics products," and also includes "a variety of graphics development tools and middleware" according to Sony boss Ken Kutaragi.

Given the vast differences in installed bases between the Xbox and the market-leading PlayStation 2, the deal is likely to be seen as a lucrative move for NVIDIA, who had been rather cast aside in last year's Xbox 2 wrangling.

As for the graphics hardware itself, the custom GPU will be a "graphics and image processing foundation for a broad range of applications from computer entertainment to broadband applications."

According to NVIDIA, the chip will be manufactured at Sony's Nagasaki Fab2, as well as OTSS, the fabrication facility Sony shares with Toshiba.

"In the future, the experience of computer entertainment systems and broadband-ready PCs will be fused together to generate and transfer multi-streams of rich content simultaneously. In this sense, we have found the best way to integrate the state-of-the-art technologies from NVIDIA and SCEI," said Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and COO, Sony Corporation and president and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "Our collaboration includes not only the chip development but also a variety of graphics development tools and middleware, essential for efficient content creation."

Microsoft is expected to announce Xbox 2 (codenamed Xenon) in January and the latest speculation suggests that it will be on store shelves by the end of 2005, while Sony's PlayStation successor isn't expected any time before mid-2006.

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Tom Bramwell

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Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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