God, why can't personal computers be as interesting as video game players?
Teenagers already get all of the cool new applications, so how come they also get all the best new hardware?
If you are under 25, the following story, dating to last Saturday, is already old news. But for the rest of you, here's the latest news from the world of video games:
Last weekend in Tokyo, Sony Corp. finally put on sale its new -- much-anticipated and much-delayed -- PlayStation 3 game console.
The PS3 has been something of a nightmare for Sony.
For nearly a decade, with the PS1 and PS2, Sony has ruled the video game player business, perpetually keeping its two estimable competitors, veteran Nintendo and newcomer Microsoft, in its wake through an unbeatable combination of performance, price and content.
The other two companies, despite having top-notch offerings of their own, have never been able to compete in more than two of these categories.
When Sony added to that good market timing, it managed to turn the game player business into the most innovative and dynamic in all of tech.
But with the PS3, Sony stumbled. It went for a home run to crush the competition and managed only to hit a foul ball.
While Sony struggled to recover, Microsoft, hardly the company one thinks of as a first-to-market type outfit (maybe THAT'S what all those Vista engineers were doing last year), managed to come out with its next generation player, the Xbox 360, in late 2005.
That not only gave it a year to pick up an estimated 10 million orders, but it also put Microsoft a year down the road in the development of its next generation player.
Even pokey old Nintendo, which marches to the beat of its own drummer -- and its own stable of loyal customers -- has managed to catch up with Sony. Next week, it will introduce its own new player, the Wii, into the U.S. market.
What took Sony so long?
Well, the standard explanation was that, technologically speaking, the company probably bit off a little too much this time.
Indeed, looking at the specs for the new machine, it's hard not to be impressed: a Blu-ray high-def DVD player, a 20GB hard-disk drive, and, most importantly a new CPU chip called The Cell that Sony calls a "supercomputer on a chip."
All of that will cost you just more than $400, which of course is twice the price of the new Nintendo Wii and almost 25 percent more than the Xbox 360.
But for the kind of performance the PS3 is expected to deliver, it's probably worth it.
The PS3 may not have the cool new motion-sensing hand controller of the Wii (which will enable it to be waved like a sword or light saber), but all of that processing power has got to mean fabulous graphics and the very quick downloading of games and videos.
But, if rumors are true, all of that firepower came close to being Sony's downfall.
At $425, consumers expect pretty high quality from a game console -- and shareholders a pretty good return on the company's investment.
Unfortunately, stuffing all of those expensive components into a new box and making them work right (apparently there were problems with the blue lasers) sent Sony's production costs right through the roof.
Until it could get that process under some kind of serious control, Sony's PS3 was facing the real-life version of that old joke about losing money on each unit, but hopefully making it up in volume.