Sony plans GPS, VOIP, other updates for PSP

Sony will add VOIP, GPS, video podcasting and other features to its PlayStation Portable this year, it said Wednesday.

Sony Computer Entertainment Wednesday outlined new software and hardware features that it plans to add to its PlayStation Portable (PSP) during 2005.

The company is planning three software updates during the year, said Ken Kutaragi, president of SCEI, at a briefing for software developers in Tokyo. Previous updates have added things like an Internet browser.

The first update will come during the "spring" when a software update will be offered that adds support for Macromedia's Flash, the ability to download audio podcasts, a Chinese font set, and software support for a camera and GPS (Global Positioning System) unit.

The camera and GPS unit themselves will be launched in September and October. respectively, but by adding the software support earlier developers will be able to write software to make use of the new hardware, said Kutaragi.

The second software update due this year will be in the "summer" and will add video podcast support and expand the video profile for the UMD (Universal Media Disc) removable media that the PSP uses.

A final software update, due in the "winter," will add the ability to boot games from Memory Stick media and VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) telephony.

The former will enable software companies to offer games that can be downloaded across the network and then run from the Memory Stick, Kutaragi said. The latter will work with the camera module and enable the PSP to be used as a VOIP handset or a video conferencing tool. The PSP includes a Wi-Fi adapter for network access.

Sony also announced plans to sell a cheaper version of the PSP in Europe and the U.S.

In Japan the handheld gaming device has been available in two versions, a basic and value pack, since launch, but in other markets only the more expensive value pack has been available. The value pack includes extras such as a Memory Stick memory card. The basic model will be available in Europe from March 22 and will cost Euro 199 (US$240) and in the U.S. from late March and will cost US$199, said Kutaragi.

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