Whereas the rumor mill has been quite active regarding the next Xbox console (codenamed "Durango"), there's barely been a whisper of the next PlayStation. With signs pointing to the next generation of consoles launching in 2013, what has Sony been up to?
According to the latest rumor, "select developers" have already received dev kits for the PS4 since the beginning of this year. However, "finalized" beta kits won't ship until the end of 2012. Inside the box is an AMD x64 CPU and AMD Southern Islands GPU--a drastic change in architecture from the IBM/Nvidia core in the PS3.
Switching to a unified architecture developed by AMD would certainly be more attractive to developers, who have continued to struggle with the odd, proprietary nature of the Cell chip. By giving developers a more familiar environment to work with, multiplatform games might not struggle as much as they did in the current generation. In addition, third parties will be able to ramp up development for the PS4 quickly--crucial for playing "catch up" if Sony's next system launches later than the next Xbox.
However, a consequence of switching to the new architecture will be the complete lack of backward compatibility. While launch PS3s offered backward compatibility with PS2 games, the feature was eventually removed in later revisions of the hardware. Kotaku's source claims that "Orbis won't even bother, and that Sony has no plans to offer backward compatibility for its existing catalog of PS3 games." That will obviously hurt anyone that's managed to amass a large collection of PSN games over the five-plus years of the current generation.
Shacknews has reached out to Sony for further comment.