I'll probably get bashed for even suggesting this, but is it conceivable that Sony delay the NGP slightly and opt to use PowerVR series 6 gpu? Assuming that the time frame for the series 6 works out for Sony, why not?
As you probably know, a few weeks after the NGP's debut, PowerVR publically announced that their series 6 gpus are done, and will be sampling by the end of this year. They will show up in devices early next year.
Now this is just an hypothetical, but based on previous PowerVR releases, it's likely that the new series is almost exactly the same foot print as the previous series, in terms of power usage, heat generated and also in terms of size. It's extremely likely that the gpu will fully support all software designed to run on the previous generation's gpu as well.
Eventhough Sony is currently using the cutting edge PowerVR 5 series gpu in all the dev kits. Any game designed to run on the series 5 gpu will most likely run just fine on the series 6 gpu. So none of the work that game developers sank into making launch NGP games would be wasted.
(The 6 series) deliver in excess of 210 GFLOPS and 350 million “real” polygons and a visible fill rate of 5 Gigapixels, although ST-Ericsson claims that thanks to the deferred rendering that’s part of the PowerVR technology the actual fill rate should be closer to 13 Gigapixels.
This is beyond the performance of both the Xbox 360 and the PS3's gpu. Discounting the PC, if Sony does this, the NGP could wind up with what is easily the best looking version of all multiplatform releases, and could even wind up with early next generation multiplatform games, without too much downgrading. Opting to do this, combined with the closed nature of the NGP, will make it seem relevant many iOS generations from now. Sony will not have to fear iPad games looking on par with or superior to NGP games, for many many years.
Last minute changes are not without precedent for Sony. The PS3 underwent various tweaks in the number of ethernet ports it contains, the number of HDMI input it has, and the number of USB ports it has, well after it was shown off publically, and fairly close to release. Likewise the RSX was added to the PS3 fairly close to it's release. Apple likewise, release brand new hardware within an year's time, and we're still likely about an year away from NGP's release. The series 6 will also take up a very similar footprint compared to the series 5 gpu, so Sony really wouldn't have to alter the exterior design at all. They could simply build the rest of the NGP as is, and simply opt to use the newer chipset inside.
As is, it's basically confirmed that the NGP won't make it to North America or to Europe until early next year anyways. Would it really make much difference whether the device shows up in January, or in March?
As far as cost increases go, they shouldn't be too much.PowerVR and ARM have both been excellent about pricing...
The iPhone 4/iPad 1's A4 (cpu+ gpu) cost Apple $10.75 according to iSuppli.
The iPad 2's A5 (updated dual core cpu + updated dual core gpu) cost Apple $14 according to iSuppli.
I'm not sure what portion of the $3 increase in price is accounted for the gpu upgrade rather than the cpu upgrade, but even assuming that all of it is, I think Sony would be more than willing to eat an additional $3 in costs per NGP to ensure a much longer shelf life.