At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2006, Sony executives announced that the company's Connect service would bring music and video downloads to the Playstation Portable in two months. That didn't happen. March 2006 came and went with no sign of Sony's would-be iTunes launching to its multimedia-enabled gaming handheld.
Then, earlier this month, an Australian executive hinted that Sony was readying a digital television service for the PlayStation 3. Speaking with a New Zealand-based newspaper, he outlined a TiVo-like service which would allow the game console to be used as both a TV tuner and personal video recorder (PVR).
Today at the Leipzig Games Convention in Germany, Sony officially announced its multimedia plan for both the PSP and PS3. Collectively called PlayTV, the service will indeed imbue Sony's console with PVR and TV tuner functions, allowing users to record and store live television shows on the PS3's hard drive. The high-definition TV tuner will be two-tiered, allowing users to watch one show while recording another in resolution up to 1080p. Programs can then be transferred onto the PSP for viewing on the go, or viewed remotely via the PS3-to-PSP streaming functionality. PlayTV will also have a seven-day electronic program guide that can be navigated via the Sixaxis game controller.
While there's little doubt PlayTV will likely appeal to PlayStation owners worldwide, so far it has been announced only for five countries in Western Europe: France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the UK. Sony has not yet announced any North American or Asian plans. Sony's Leipzig announcement also studiously avoided any mention of cost, raising the possibility that, like the PlayStation Network, PlayTV could be totally free of charge.
Sony also used the sprawling Games Convention--which has become Europe's top game-industry event--to announce a new messaging service for the PSP. Launching in 2008, Go!Messenger will be installed in PSPs via a firmware update, and allow text-based instant messaging via the portable's built-in wireless Internet connection. The update will also give the PSP an all-new keyboard system to replace the current predictive text input format.
Perhaps even more importantly, Go!Messenger will allow PSP owners to engage in voice-over IP chatting via a headset. Also, with addition of the PSP's camera peripheral, it will allow for full video chat wherever wireless Internet access is available.
No pricing has been announced for Go!Messenger. Codeveloped by UK telecom giant BT, the functionality will launch in January 2008 in Europe. Like PlayTV, no North American or Asian plans for the service have yet been announced.