Interview with Ken Kutaragi -- "I want to draw a picture on a stark white campus"

Interview with Ken Kutaragi

Apr 9, 2001

Ken Kutaragi
Interview with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. President Ken Kutaragi

Father of the video game consoles: PlayStation and PlayStation2. Graduated University of Electro-Communications, Department of Information and Communication Engineering and joined Sony Corp in 1975. Engaged himself in the development of liquid crystal TVs and electronic steel cameras at a business development department. In late 1980's, after working at Sony's Information Processing Laboratories, Kutaragi embarked on a joint project with Nintendo for developing game consoles, but only to see it fall flat in 1991. In December 1993, he launched Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) and became the general manager.  After witnessing sales of PlayStation in December 1994 and PlayStation2 in March 2000, Kutaragi assumed the post of SCE President. Widely known for his outspoken and brash character. On one hand he scares engineers in the game consoles field, but on the other hand he gains much trust from his subordinates. Born in 1950. Apart from his post as SCE President, he is also a board member of Sony Corp.

What the engineers lack is purity

--A year has passed since the release of PlayStation2. Is everything under full sail?

Kutaragi:Partly yes, and partly no. However, I think one needs to have a broader view when looking at PlayStation2. Keeping track of the moves of the console itself is not an issue anymore, because the box itself has no significant meaning. There is network in the first place and the box hangs onto the network. I intend to change this equation.

--I assume you are referring to "CELL," the new microprocessor chip that you will be jointly developing together with U.S. IBM Corp and Toshiba. Won't the chip be embedded into the next generation game console?

Kutaragi:Whether CELL would be built in to the game console or not is not an essential matter. Should the era of packaging continue, I guess PlayStation3 and PlayStation4 would be worth a topic to discuss, but what I would like to stress is that the concept of packaging, or box, would disappear in the broadband era. Same thing can be said of the concept of servers and clients. A band of CELL would assume the role of the existing computer system and would establish a living organism like the real cell. World's broadband will consist of an aggregation of CELL. One CELL has a capacity to have 1TFLOPS performance and an aggregation of 1,000 CELLs would have 1P (Pets) FLOPS. The capacity of 1P is an equivalent to the information processing ability of one human being. Thus creation of another world is possible if we were able to collect CELLs that equal to the capacity of 5 billion people.

-- I heard that you took the leading role in introducing the idea to develop CELL

Kutaragi:Yes, I had been imaging it in my mind from years before. It was also my idea to dub it "CELL." Although at initial stages, I had been calling it "Saibo (meaning cell in Japanese)," I christened it with an English name "CELL" in spring 2000, when I confided my thoughts to IBM Corp. I ponder that the development of CELL will bring renovation - the first in 50 years of computer history. Nothing has changed ever since ENIAC appeared until now -- where we have Itanium. To date, network-linked computers have existed as stand-alone islands. That was not much of a problem because operating systems were unevenly distributed to each island and were interchanging data among themselves.