After eight years sitting under our TVs, the Sony Playstation 3 is be about to be superseded by the PS4. …Or that’s if rumours are to be believed, anyway. So what are we actually looking at? Something pretty special, if you piece together all the rumours…

Sony PS4: Development and release

Rumours surrounding the PS4 have been circling since the PS3 first landed, as is always the way with these things. In reality, the initial word was that the PS3 would last 10 years, which means it’d finally bite the dust in 2016. That said, there has been a handful of juicy news droplets that state otherwise.

In May last year, while fielding a question from investors on increased spending, Sony’s CFO Masaru Kato said: “This is a platform business, so for the future platform – when we’ll be introducing what product I cannot discuss that – but our development work is already under way, so the costs are incurred there.”

Read our full Xbox 720 rumour roundup

So the PS4 is already under way? The signs are there. It’s now being heavily suggested that Microsoft will launch its Xbox 720 at E3 2012. Sony will want to compete with that if it is true. PlayStation Europe’s Jim Ryan said that launching a new console too long after the next Xbox would be ‘undesirable’.

The E3 2012 rumours come from MCV Editor Ben Parfitt, who claims that both big name consoles will be at the show. “You have my personal word on this – the source is exemplary, 100% concrete, ultra high level,” he said.

Many developers, however -  such as Bethesda’s Todd Howard – are adamant that we won’t be seeing the PS4 until 2014 at the earliest. Meanwhile, Infinity Ward, who’s next Call of Duty game will land in 2013, is now advertising for a senior animator who’s interested ‘in working with next-generation technologies’.

Sony PS4 graphics:

How powerful will it be? Erm… Very. The PS4 will almost certainly use the Cell technology that Sony’s pumped so much money into over the years. While some rumours suggest NVidia will get a look in, it’s more than likely Sony will stick to what it knows, especially after having recently dropped £400 million on buying the Cell processing plant in Nagasaki off of Toshiba.

Using Cell architecture will also allow for easy backwards compatibility, allowing the PS4 to run PS3 games.

That said, don’t expect the PS4 Cell processor to compare to the current one. It’s rumoured to be a 32nm number with 16 cores – that’s at least twice as powerful as the PS3. In terms of actual graphical prowess, the PS4 is expected to be able to pull off onscreen beauty with 10 times the processing grunt of the current generation.

How OnLive could change everything

OnLive is proving to be a hit and cloud gaming is coming to the fore, but it’s unlikely that the PS4 will follow down the same route, due to the widespread problem of poor broadband speeds.

Sony’s Kaz Hirai says “we do business in parts of the world where network infrastructure isn’t as robust as one would hope. There’s always going to be requirement for a business of our size and scope to have a physical medium.”

That means Blu-Ray. Digital content delivery via the PSN will still be a massive part of the PS4, but it’ll have to fall back on physical media.

Android love-in?

Sony Ericsson, which is now just plain Sony, has a lot invested in Android with its smartphones. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play and Sony P Android tablet actually have Playstation branding, so there’s many a titter that Android will play a part in the PS4’s UI.

With Sony Bravia TVs fully onboard with Google TV, we expect that Google will make an appearance somewhere in the overall Playstation 4 experience.

Vita pairing?

The Sony PS Vita is just a month away from launch in the UK. Sony’s pumping a huge amount of time, money and effort into making sure the new handheld is a massive success, so you have to imagine that it’s already got a plan in mind as to how the Vita will interact with the PS4.

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Our guess would be that at the very least, the Vita will act as a controller and as a portable viewing screen, a la the Nintendo Wii U controller. Best case scenario? You’ll be able to play your PS4 games on your Vita from anywhere in the world.

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