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Panasonic returns to gaming systems with the handheld Jungle

Panasonic has introduced a device that could be the next big thing in portable gaming! It probably won’t be, but it could be. Panasonic is back once again in the gaming market, this time with a handheld unit called the Jungle. While this might sound like a rival to Nintendo and Sony, and maybe even to the iPhone and iTouch, it does have a few things that will make it stand out. It may still fail spectacularly, but it will stand out.

Developed by Panasonic Cloud Entertainment, a small Silicon Valley-based startup carrying the Panasonic name, the Jungle is being aimed specifically at the MMO and online gaming crowd. The specs haven’t been released yet, but from what we do know, it will feature a QWERTY keyboard, touch pad, dual D-pads and a mini-HDMI port. Beyond that there are unconfirmed rumors that it will be Linux based and it could have 3G.

If the Linux OS rumor is true, that might also present some unusual issues if Panasonic intends this game for the MMO market, as it claims. Most games would need be ported over for the device, which could be an issue. The Linux OS is still unconfirmed at the moment, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the OS.

The Jungle also seems to be a brand, rather than just a single handheld unit, although the device will also be called the Jungle. The official website that just went live, is still lacking in details, but it does list an upcoming game called Battlestar Galactica Online (a browser-based MMO based on the TV series), and new show, Online Underground, produced by Machinima.com which has already begun.

The Panasonic Jungle is the first foray into the gaming market for Panasonic since the slow and painful death of the 3DO nearly 15 years ago. For those that don’t remember the 3DO — and there are many that don’t — it was a console produced by Panasonic that debuted in 1993 with the stunningly high price tag of $699.95. It was a technically sound device that had the backing of EA, but the department went out of business in 1996 following extremely low sales.

The Jungle sounds interesting, but until more details emerge, color us skeptical that a new device from a company with a spotty gaming record can crack the handheld gaming market. Nintendo is the king, Sony has the hardcore gamers, and Apple is making huge strides as well, but this is definitely a product worth watching.