Now that the PS Vita has launched in three major regions, focus is turning back on Sony's home console. The latest intel suggests Sony will ditch the complex Cell architecture for the PlayStation 4 and go with AMD for next-gen CPUs and GPUs. The switch would reportedly make the PS4 much more developer-friendly.
When Sony unveiled the PS3 to hungry gamers around the world at E3 2005, it focused its efforts on talking up the Cell processor. Cell was a processor designed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM that was supposed to bring photorealistic graphics and unparalleled gameplay to the PS3. Not only that, but it was supposed to be the processor that would also power the TVs and computers all around us.
That dream never came to fruition.
The PS3 currently uses an Nvidia RSX GPU with 256MB of RAM, coupled with the Cell's 256MB of RAM. Comparatively, the Xbox 360 uses 512MB of shared RAM between its PowerPC Tri-Core Xenon processor and a 500MHz ATI Xenos GPU (now owned by AMD).
One of the main complaints about developing for the PS3 is its memory issue. As outlined above, the PS3 has 256MB of RAM allocated for both its CPU and GPU, but both are non-shareable, unlike the Xbox 360's 512MB of RAM that is shareable. This essentially means that games on PS3 that require more processing RAM can't borrow some from the GPU and vice versa, whereas on the Xbox 360, games can.
We've all heard horror stories about how porting games over to the PS3 is a nightmare or how leading development on the PS3 and then porting the code down to the Xbox 360 leads to hair pulling (seriously, search for them!), but Sony's never officially stated the console's shortcomings.
Scrapping the Cell processor might be a great move to start fresh and lead to faster and easier game development, but with it could come another problem: backwards compatibility. A new architecture might mean PS3 games won't be playable on the PS4. It's possible that Sony might create an emulator, but it'll be a situation that's similar to current (not launch) PS3s not being able to play PS2 discs.
The PS4 was rumored to make its debut (in prototype form) at E3 2012, but Sony's President (and soon to be CEO) Kaz Hirai has since shot down those myths, insisting the company is still aiming for a 10-year life cycle for the current PS3.
With the Wii U launching later this year and the Xbox 360's successor expected to make a showing at E3, Sony might end up being the last one out of the next-gen gate.