I don't want to start a console war, but the Wii U is x4 as powerful RAM-wise at least and has a better GPU. Some developers say that the processor is weaker than Cell though, but then again the thing has a GPGPU.
On-topic, I do believe that thing is released to combat the Wii U. In fact, the pricing seems very competitive, with the best one being the price of a basic console, and half the memory space for $50 cheaper. Plus they're also using the "offer basic storage, expand by yourself" scheme with the 12 GB model in Europe.
This will be one hectic holiday season.