Sony hints at PSP upgrades

Streaming movie function, video chat e-mail application, and Digital Rights Management are among the potential features in store for the handheld's future.

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Late last month, Sony Computer Entertainment released a firmware update for Japanese PSPs (a US release is scheduled for August 12) that gave the handheld a number of new functions, including a Web browser feature that lets users tap into wireless hot spots to surf the Internet. In the latest issue of Famitsu, SCE software platform development chief Izumi Kawanishi talked about the development of the PSP Web browser and gave some clues as to what could possibly be implemented in future updates for the handheld.

With the addition of a Web browser, PSP owners can now download movies directly from the Internet and watch them on their handheld. Previously, users had to go through the hassle of downloading movie files to their PCs before transferring the data to their Memory Sticks via USB or a memory card adapter.

Kawanishi is thinking of further improving the PSP's movie-viewing experience by adding a function to watch streaming videos. If that happens, users will be able to watch movies on the fly without having to save them on their Memory Sticks. Kawanishi also said that he plans to include Digital Rights Management functions in a future update, which will allow for paid content to be watched on the handheld.

Kawanishi stated that the Web browser function should also benefit future game releases. Since users can bring up the browser during gameplay, publishers may be more inclined to add downloadable content to their games' official sites. For example, a player can pause a game, go to the game's site, download new data, and resume playing the game with new content. Kawanishi also pointed out that the PSP's Wi-Fi capability can simultaneously communicate in infrastructure mode to connect to the Internet, as well as the ad hoc mode to connect with other PSP owners. He hopes that publishers will start to develop games that specifically leverage this new functionality.

Although the new PSP update came with a Web browser, one thing the machine still lacks is an e-mail application. Users can use some Web-based e-mail sites, but Kawanishi revealed that he is currently thinking of a new mail program for the PSP that will let users communicate with one another using both video and voice. "We're currently considering [the implementation of an e-mail system], but we want to think over the fundamental concept behind e-mail. We think it would be great if people could communicate together with the use of video and voice," said Kawanishi.

Last but not least, one of the dangers in surfing around the Internet has always been the threat of a virus. Kawanishi commented that the PSP can't be fiddled with like a PC, so viruses shouldn't be a problem. However, he also said that nothing is entirely safe, so his staff is on the lookout to make sure countermeasures exist in cases where viruses appear on the handheld.

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