PS3 slim resurfaces, Sony hardware orders double?

Retailers appear to be making room for new iteration of publisher's console as Taiwanese site reports parts production goes into overdrive.

Sources: See below.

What we heard: Last week following a bleak earnings report, Sony CFO Nobuyuki Oneda told analysts that his company has reduced PlayStation 3 production costs by 70 percent since the console's November 2006 launch. Though Sony has never officially released a production price for the PS3, figures from hardware research firm iSuppli pointed to the per-unit manufacturing cost of the console now being just $252. That's well below the 80GB console's current $399 cost at retail and enough to make a $299 price point still profitable for Sony.

Though Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer appeared to dismiss the notion of the console being profitable last month, Oneda's comments reignited speculation of a PS3 price cut. That, in turn, refocused attention to photos purporting to be a new, 120GB slimline version of the console which surfaced in May. Like the PS2 Slim introduced in 2004, a smaller form factor would let Sony save millions on manufacturing and shipping costs--and might be the reason for the huge savings Oneda described.

Though Sony continues to remain silent on the prospect of a price cut (see below), the past week has seen a series of reports that indicate something is afoot in the PS3 supply chain. Over the weekend, Amazon's German store posted--and then pulled--a listing for a "PS3 Konsole Slim." Next, the semi-reliable Taiwanese hardware news site Digitimes reported that Sony has "placed significant orders for key Sony PS3 components," doubling demand and leaving suppliers scrambling to churn them out.

There are also indications that retailers are taking steps to clear out existing PS3 stocks. Taming blog Hatimaki was passed a purported scan of a notice sent to Japanese stores by Sony asking them to remove all current 80GB displays on August 9--shortly before the rumored launch window of the new, cheaper console. Then, the US Amazon store has significantly discounted the 160GB PS3 Uncharted bundle, dropping its price from $499 to $449--just $50 more than the $399 80GB SKU.

The official story: "We don't discuss or comment on rumors or speculation."--Sony rep.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that there is a disturbance in the PS3 supply force. If it's not a cheaper PS3, then what is it?

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