Sony to juice up PSPs with mouse, Flash, more?

Head of platform development discusses possible expansion of browser support, downloadable games, GPS peripherals, and other additions.

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Despite that the major PSP firmware update was released in Japan just last month, Sony Computer Entertainment platform development chief Izumi Kawanishi was already discussing expansion of the handheld's new features a few weeks later. Among the topics touched at that point were Web-based game content, downloadable movies, and e-mail support. But apparently that was not all that was brewing at Sony's platform development studio. In an interview with Japanese technology Web site ITmedia, Kawanishi revealed even more possible plans for the PSP.

Sony's developers are considering adding Macromedia Flash support for PSP's Web browser in the future, as well as expanding Javascript functions. Kawanishi explained they need to determine Flash's performances on the PSP before coming to a conclusion. Kawanishi said that his team basically has an open stance toward network-related functions, and Flash playback was not intentionally ignored. On the other hand, Kawanishi explained that security issues prompted the team to leave out some Javascript support, such as allowing scripts to access the UMD. The PSP development team is planning to release a guideline manual for content providers so they can make Web pages catered to the PSP. Kawanishi is also considering disclosing the specs to the public as well.

When a Web page is displayed on the PSP, all data is managed in the handheld's main memory, Kawanishi explained. The browser does not use the Memory Stick Duo accessory to display Web pages (though it is technically possible), because as removable media, unexpected errors can occur if the stick is removed during use. Kawanishi added that displaying saved HTML files from the Memory Stick is technically possible and will be kept under consideration for future updates.

Kawanishi also revealed that Sony is already planning a number of USB peripherals for the PSP, and some should be announced in the near future. He commented that a keyboard and mouse are possibilities, as they will facilitate browsing the Web. The Global Positioning System device shown during last year's E3 is another possible peripheral, as it could be used with both the Web browser and PSP games.

The 2.0 firmware update gave the handheld H.264 MPEG4 movie-playback capabilities, and Kawanishi confirmed that he would like to add support for other formats. However, explained that some third-party formats cannot be supported. Instead, Sony's developers will be giving first priority to the most standard file formats. Kawanishi said there are also plans to support high-resolution and high bit rates, with plans already under way for the MPEG4-AVC format. In terms of audio, Kawanishi explained that the PSP supports AAC format, since it's standardized, and there's the possibility that the m4a audio format will be added as well.

When asked whether the PSP will support downloadable games, Kawanishi simply stated that the idea is under consideration. He also added that it would be interesting if users could develop their own simple games and distribute them online.

Kawanishi did not mention any release dates for the next update for the handheld's software in Japan or abroad. Stateside, PSP owners are still awaiting the release of Firmware 2.0, which lets the PSP browse the Web, among other functions. Sony promised that the update would be available the week of August 15.

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