could be on the verge of launching a much-anticipated "PlayStation phone" after pictures appeared on gadget blogs purporting to show a Sony Ericsson handset with a slide-out PlayStation Portable games console.
Engadget reports that the photo, which appears on its website, "is the PlayStation Phone you've long been waiting for".
The blog speculates that the device will run the upcoming version of Google's Android operating system, known as Gingerbread, along with a custom-made "Sony Marketplace" that will enable people to download games designed specifically for the device.
Engadget expects the device to be launched officially next year, and an announcement about the so-called PlayStation phone's availability could be made at Mobile World Congress in February.
A spokesman for Sony said the company did not comment on rumour and speculation, and refused to be drawn on whether the photos were legitimate, or whether such a product was planned.
Speculation has been rife for some time that Sony would license its PlayStation brand to the Sony Ericsson mobile arm of its business. In July last year, Nikkei, a respected daily business newspaper in Japan, reported that Sony was considering such a product.
Sony was said to have set up a dedicated team to work on the handset, that would bring together the Sony Ericsson division with the multimedia and gaming team behind the PlayStation Portable handheld games console.
Sony is said to be concerned by the threat posed by Apple's iPhone. Dozens of major games studios, including Capcom and Electronic Arts, are developing games for Apple's touch-screen device, potentially pitting the iPhone and iPod touch directly against Sony's PSP console and Nintendo's hand-held device, the DS.
However, gaming fans will not be getting their hopes up - rumours of a PSP phone first surfaced in 2007, when Sony filed a patent application showing a portable games device with phone capabilities, while in January 2009, Sony was said to have refused to sanction the use of the PlayStation brand by its Sony Ericsson telecoms arm.
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