FORTUNE -- Ask Sony Computer Entertainment President Andrew House about the company's newest device, the PlayStation 4, and he'll put it quite simply: "We learned a lot from challenges with PlayStation 3." The PlayStation 3 was priced higher than its primary competitor, Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360, and its cutting-edge technology posed, as House puts it, "considerable challenges to a large swath of developers."
Sony (SNE) has taken those lessons to heart. When the PlayStation 4 arrives in U.S. stores this Friday, the console will be priced at $399 — $100 less than the all-new Xbox One. And, instead of investing heavily in what House calls "bespoke [tech] architecture," Sony went with internal components that more closely resemble those found in personal computers. For developers, that means making games for the PlayStation 4 should be a smoother process, with the hopes that there will be more hit games that make the PlayStation 4 a must-have item.
Sony loaned me a PlayStation 4 earlier this week, and since I've spent less than two days with it, consider this more of a hands-on than an all-out review. But my time with the console so far has left me with strong impressions:
The hardware. House calls the PlayStation 4 a veritable ode to the parallelogram, and indeed, the inspiration is obvious, with sharp corners, few curves, and slanted angles dominating the plastic black console's overall design. It's a lot smaller than its predecessor -- a gorgeous, piano-black behemoth that hogged up too much space next to my TV -- and for that, I'm grateful. Games on disc are automatically downloaded to the PS4's 500-gigabyte hard drive, a quick process that only takes a few minutes. But given how many games take up 30-plus gigabytes of space, that hard drive is bound to fill up quickly.
The controller bears a strong resemblance to last generation's, but it's been tweaked a lot for comfort: The trigger buttons and controller nubs are concave instead of convex, for instance, and overall, it's more contoured to the hand, much more so than the giant tablet controller on Nintendo's Wii U device, which still feels like I'm holding something vaguely resembling a hardcover book. (In fact, the PS4 controller is quickly becoming my favorite game controller to date.) There's also a tiny speaker on it that pipes out audio to complement whatever's happening onscreen, and a smooth, responsive touchpad in the middle, which frankly, I barely need to use for the games I played. The controller's weakness, if anything, would be the four hours of battery life in-between charges. That's fine, but I'd prefer more time before having to plug back in.
The software. The PS4 keeps its menu interface simple to get around. Software updates to games download in the background, and access to things like Netflix's slick, redesigned app are intuitive and easy. Online features were made available just last night, so I've yet to perform a deep dive. That said, downloading games like the shoot 'em up Battlefield 4 took less than an hour and were hassle-free.
As for the games? I've only managed to play with three, two of which Sony provided: the shooter Killzone, a family-friendly platform game called Knack, and Battlefield 4. The PS4 is about 10 times more powerful than the PS3, and while Killzone in particular sports gorgeous, sweeping post-apocalyptic environments through which to mow enemies down, there wasn't anything gameplay-wise that screamed "next-generation." (For instance, I rarely needed to use the new controller's touchpad.) The family-friendly Knack, a game with some Mario-like jumping elements, is more innovative with its gameplay, but less visually impressive than say, Killzone, and looks like it could have been done on the PlayStation 3. Indeed, many of the device's initial games will also be available for Xbox One when it arrives, and some games like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, are also already available for older consoles.
The verdict. Think of the PlayStation 4 as a device with great potential, just one that developers haven't tapped into much yet -- at least, based on my limited time with it. There isn't any one feature or game I've played that screams "next generation." Games I've played with run buttery-smooth and sport some great eye candy, but haven't exactly "wowed" me, and new features like the controller touchpad have yet to be used in an innovative way. That said, it seems like Sony is on the right track, and like any new console, it can take time -- sometimes years -- before impressive software arrives that really takes advantage of all that technological muscle. It's up to the developers now to do so and for gamers to buy in. And given the PS4's cheaper, competitive price tag, that should be less of a challenge than last generation.
Tim Cook said at D:11 that Apple has sold more 13 million units. That was news.
FORTUNE -- For a number of reasons -- including all those questions about future products not even Steve Jobs would have touched -- Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook didn't break much news Tuesday night at AllThingsD.
But he did provide a new data point about Apple TV: He said the company has sold more than 13 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 29, 2013 10:54 AM ET
We looked to Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi to learn more about what the company's new videogame console can and can't do.
FORTUNE -- By now, gamers around the world know just as much about Microsoft's new video game console, the Xbox One, as they do Sony's (SNE) recently announced PlayStation 4. Like its next-generation counterpart, the Xbox One will rely on an 8-core processor, supported by 8 gigabytes of MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - May 23, 2013 12:52 PM ET
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* Apple's (AAPL) Tim Cook visited Foxconn's new iPhone factory in the Zhengzhou Technology Park during his trip to China. (Fortune)
* New Research in Motion (RIMM) CEO Thorsten Heins will give a progress report on the company's turnaround later today when RIM reports its latest earnings. (The Wall Street Journal)
* Mark Zuckerberg MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 29, 2012 10:14 AM ET
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"It is not thicker, don't believe all the junk that you read."
-- Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller supposed response to reports that the white iPhone 4 is thicker (9 to 5 Mac)
Some Research In Motion investors reportedly sold shares late last week based on growing general concern that MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - May 2, 2011 6:30 AM ET
A curated selection of the day's most newsworthy tech stories from all over the Web. Sign up to get the newsletter delivered to you everyday.
"Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."
--Apple on reports that it's tracking iPhone and 3G iPad users (Fortune)
All Things D has the skinny from Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller on why the white iPhone 4 took so darned MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 28, 2011 6:30 AM ET
Jack Tretton on why Nintendo and Microsoft's most recent gaming efforts are already irrelevant, and the real future of 3-D gaming.
No product better exemplifies Sony Computer Entertainment's "everything and the kitchen sink" design mentality better than the company's Playstation 3 home console, originally a hulk of shiny black plastics and chrome accents that seemed huge -- larger still than most DVD players today -- but used some advanced parts for MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 8, 2011 11:15 AM ET
Poor Andy Android gets some back alley surgery. For the hardcore only.
The Xperia Play, also more affectionately known as the Playstation phone is going to get some airtime at Europe's biggest mobile gathering, Mobile World Congress later this month. Until then, all you have to tide you over is this somewhat gruesome little reminder that the Playstation platform is moving into a virtual machine on Android.
Watch out, Android now has opposable thumbs.
via DroidNYTTno MORESeth Weintraub - Feb 3, 2011 1:55 PM ET
A curated selection of the day's most newsworthy tech stories from all over the Web.
Meet the Sony PSP2, codenamed NGP. Sony's next-generation handheld gaming device will focus on the following areas: Revolutionary User Interface, Social Connectivity, Location-based Entertainment, Converging Real and Virtual (augmented) Reality. Features include a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 5-inch touchscreen OLED display with 960 x 544 resolution, dual analog sticks, 3G, WiFi, GPS, a rear-mounted touchpad, the same accelerometer MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jan 27, 2011 8:36 AM ET
Online games such as Age of Conan and Farmville are hot. Now industry leader Activision Blizzard is jumping into the fray with a new Internet strategy.
When videogame publisher Activision announced its merger with Vivendi Games in late 2007, analysts predicted that Vivendi's Blizzard unit, maker of the hugely popular Internet-based fantasy game World of Warcraft, would help Activision migrate to the online world.
Three years later the combined company, Activision Blizzard, MOREStephanie N. Mehta, Deputy Managing Editor - Dec 20, 2010 5:00 AM ET
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