First, they tried to flog it as a super gaming rig and home entertainment device that will change your experience in the living room. However, they forgot the most important piece of that strategy, the content. There are *no* super games for the PS3 and they often blame this on the learning curve for the new console. However, if the sales of the PS3 continue to lag behind the Wii and Xbox 360, few developers will bother with the curve and may just neglect it totally.
Next, they tried to entice the techies by pushing it as a powerful workstation/computer. They provided support and code to ensure that the PS3 would be able to run Linux efficiently. This will allow the homebrew crowd to develope interesting third party applications and uses for the PS3. However, no one will buy a PS3 for this purpose when an el-cheapo PC will do the same thing. So, this is a secondary use for the hardcore crowd, at best.
Then, they tried to attract the scientific community by extoling the floating point virtues of the PS3. Without doubt, the PS3 has an exceptional amount of computing power. It is essentially a super computer in a box. It has the potential of helping scientists with simulations of all kinds. A super-cluster of these, would be able to cruch numbers like mad. However, this is an extremely niche market.
Now, they had finally figured out an idea that might just work well. The strength of the PS3 is it's powerful hardware. As mentioned, it is essentially a super-computer in a box. It is also equipped with high speed communications and powerful graphics and audio outputs. So, it would make perfect sense to do things like what they are doing now.
It's latest idea is essentially, a persistent online virtual world, ala Second Life, with much more 'ooommph'. With this idea, the console could become *the* gateway into a realm like the 'metaverse' envisioned by Neal Stephenson. It is sitting in a prime position to do so. The PS3 would be capable of creating an immersive experience while letting the users provide the content.
And now that Second Life has gone open source, Sony is a prime company to support the continued development and integration of the application for the PS3. This would actually make more sense than to create their own system. It would immediately open up the PS3 base to an established franchise and save them tonnes of development and marketing time.
I believe, that if executed correctly, this strategy would actually help create a niche for the PS3 that the other consoles could not break. However, knowing Sony, they are likely to screw this up for a while before figuring out how to actually exploit it correctly. But, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that they succeed in this.