Sony has always been cagey about the amount of RAM in the NGP. In fact, to our knowledge the platform holder has yet to confirm anything regarding that particular aspect of the system's specifications.
Yet, French site 01Net is convinced Sony has cut the total RAM of the system from 512mb to 256mb. That's roughly the same amount of RAM as the PlayStation3 by the way. Various sites are speculating that the "downgrade" is to bring the system's price down. Our theory is that it probably never had 512mb RAM in the first place, but Sony was considering an "upgrade" if it was cost-efficient. We suspect developers have been working towards the 256mb RAM target all along. We certainly don't believe — as some forum posters are suggesting — that Sony sprung this news on developers over night.
Perhaps the bigger rumour from 01Net is that the system's 16GB on-board memory has been removed in favour of an external memory system. Assuming Sony is going to push downloadable content on the NGP, this could be the bigger deal-breaker.
But if it meant Sony could hit that illusive $250 price-point, perhaps it's for the best. From what we can understand, the downgrade in RAM will not impact the NGP's performance too heavily. It's general multitasking and web-browsing that will take the hit.
Some people are arguing that mobile phones exceed the specifications of the NGP, but they do not factor in the heavy processing of those device's OS, which the NGP will not have to deal with. Obviously higher specifications make for a more future proof system, but if they come at the expense of a higher price which impacts the system's install base and product adoption, specs are moot anyway. We suspect this is Sony just doing some cost/benefit balancing.
01Net does have a track record with regards to NGP specification leaks — it pretty much nailed the system's features pre-announcement. But we still maintain that the coyness of Sony's earlier announcements mean that the platform holder has been weighing up the system's final RAM inclusion for some time.
In more positive news, 01Net's report states that developers are very happy with the NGP platform and its development environment. Sony has made it clear from the start that it wanted to make NGP a very easily platform to develop for, and it seems like that's paying off.