March 21, 2005 4:00 AM PST

PSP no one-trick pony

The battle for the digital living room is still far from settled, but Sony is betting it can take over your backpack or purse in the meantime.

The company's PlayStation Portable, which goes on sale in North America on Thursday, could be one of the first limited-scale victories for " convergence," the oft-touted notion of combining numerous media functions into a single device.

While convergence in the home is still an idea looking for a market, the concept has a better chance with portable gadgets, where a multifunction approach can save valuable pocket space.


What's new:
While the PSP is mainly being touted as a portable game machine, Sony is positioning the device as something different and better--a multimedia player that can be used for lots more than games.

Bottom line:
Next in the lineup of gotta-have gadgets, analysts say, is a portable digital-media player that taps games, video, music and more. Will the PSP give Sony a head start in the next phase of the digital-media era?

More stories on the PSP

The PSP takes a new path in the quest for an all-in-one gadget. It's being sold primarily as a portable game machine, a market where it can capitalize on the huge PlayStation brand, yet it can also play movies and music, display digital photos and potentially perform a host of Internet tasks through its built-in wireless networking. The result, analysts and industry observers say, isn't the "iPod killer" many have imagined, but a device that could give Sony a head start in the next phase of the digital-media era.

"The next evolution on top of the iPod is the digital-media player, a device that plays multiple forms of content, and the PSP could really establish that market," said Michael Goodman, an analyst for research company The Yankee Group. "The PSP is going to make or break itself in the next six to 12 months as a game platform. But it's also a Trojan horse for portable video and audio and images. Once you get it in people's hands as a game player, they see it has all these other great capabilities."

Games have dominated plans for the PSP since Sony announced the device last year, but recent developments have been at least as focused on other functions. Sony decided to introduce the device in North America as part of a package that includes a copy of the Sony Pictures film "Spider-Man 2" on the new Universal Media Disc, or UMD, format the PSP will use. Other movie studios, including media giant Disney, have also recently announced support for UMD.

No music labels have revealed plans yet to support UMD, but a Sony executive recently confirmed that the company plans to release software updates that will use the PSP's built-in wireless networking capability to download tunes from Sony's Connect store and possibly other services.

PSP gallery

Future expansions could include support for many WiFi-powered Web functions, from basic e-mail and Web browsing to connecting to live TV programming. With the market for handheld computers dwindling, the PSP could become just enough of an organizer for the average person, according to Goodman.

"You can see a lot of different kinds of potential applications you could layer on to it," he said. "Once you have the connectivity, it opens a whole host of possibilities."

Not all fun and games
Such multimedia capabilities make sense from several standpoints, said David Cole, president of researcher DFC Intelligence, including the competitive landscape. Nintendo has virtually owned the portable gaming market for years. By cramming in more capabilities than Nintendo put on the new DS, Sony hopes it can appeal to a broader demographic and command a slight price premium, Cole said.

"They figure they've got the game component down; now they want to position it as something different and better, and it seems to be working," Cole said. "Whether the extra features are used a lot or not, it still puts them in a nice position for helping consumers justify the purchase."

Michael Cai, an analyst for research company Parks Associates, noted that a slew of would-be GameBoy killers have over the past decade been trying to steal away part of the device's preteen audience. Sony is smart to aim for an older, more discriminating class of customer, he said.

Related story
PSP in short supply
Good luck nabbing one
of the coveted devices.

"There a lot of corpses in the GameBoy's wake," he said. "What Sony is betting on is expanding the demographic to 18- to 24-year-olds or even 24- to 39-year-olds," he said. "These are people that have played a lot of console games and they have bigger expectations for graphics and other parts of the experience. Sony is really trying to wow them with how good this looks."

Sony executives maintain that the PSP isn't even playing in the same league as Nintendo. "We think it would be selling the PSP short to begin and end the comparisons" with Nintendo, Jack Tretton, executive vice president for Sony Computer Entertainment America, told CNET last month. "The PSP brings a lot more to this space. We really see this as a 21st century convergent multimedia entertainment device."

Selling the PSP as a multimedia gadget also makes sense from a corporate standpoint. Sony largely missed out on the first wave of digital-music players, thanks to

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Not too convergent with new media format!!
UMD=the next beta.

what a joke.
Posted by Lite Rocker (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Easy to criticize
What removeable media format would you reccomend for a pocket sized machine? Click? MiniDisc? CD Singles?
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
No worse then...
cartages...or Nintendo's proprietary format for their Gamecube. Who cares what format its in? Seriously. What you want them to use full sized DVD's so the system would be twice as large and eat batteries twice as fast?

Again who cares. Most gaming consoles have always been proprietary. Unless you are ******** about it because you can't pirate games it shouldn't be a big deal.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
What Makes You Say That?
Baseless comments and assumptions are jokes to me as well :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Dear Sony...Are you insane?
I mean seriously. For $250 I can get a PS2 or an XBox and a couple of games. Drop this bundle crap that is a thinly veiled attempt to get user to pony up $50 more for accessories that arent worth $50. I honestly hope that after the initial adopters nab one of these suckers it tanks big time. I will get one when you complete the following:

1. Drop the bundle crap.
2. Drop the price to $199
3. Bundle one game in with the system.

Until then screw you.

PS- If you think the American public is going to purchase movies that ONLY play in a PSP you all are on crack.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
they always cost more than what they are worth
gaming systems always come out costing more than what they are. the xbox cost when i got mine $300. wait a while and the price will drop.

gba has some cartoon shows on theres, and i've seen people buy them, so why not movies?
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
You are nuts
There are about a million people (at least) that disagree.

I mean, this thing costs as much as an iPod! Are you on crack?

If you have a problem with the price - you probably have a problem with anything that costs $250. In other words you don't have $250.
Posted by (5 comments )
Link Flag
I think 250 is a fair market price for it if you consider its competition. The Nintendo DS is 149.99, same price as the PS2 or Xbox, does less and is less graphically advanced. To me, $250 seems fair for everything it comes with.

Just.. too expensive for this gamer at the moment. I'm going to hedge my bets for a short bit anyway because the Japanese PSP was riddled with tech problems after it's release - from faulty analog sticks to square button problems and the UMD randomly being ejected. According to Nikkei Business, through Feb. 05, 6% of all of the Japanese PSPs have been returned for defects - that's 48,000 of the 800,000 sold thru Feb. (Sources: OPM Issue 91, Nikkei Business)

I remember the original PS2 fiasco... When Sony misjudged demand and people stood in line for hours hoping to get their PS2. Then a few weeks went by and all of the sudden their PS2 wouldn't play blue-backed (CD-ROM) disks. Flash forward to the PStwo redesign and Sony had the same problems - they misjudged demand and a manufacturing problem in the first run caused them to halt production temporarily to fix it, making their console all but unavailable for the 2004 holiday season.

Given their track record, even though I love my PS2, I am going to wait this one out for a while to make sure the problems have been ironed out (at least mostly, nothing will ever be 'flawless') and for a better library of games (not many launch title games appeal to me, most of the games that are being drooled over aren't coming until mid-April anyway).

But no, I don't plan on watching UMD movies, nor do I plan on converting movies to files on a memory stick like OPM suggested. While Sony may think it's there, I, personally, don't see much practical "convergence" in this digital device.
Posted by (38 comments )
Link Flag
Are YOU Insane?
You are comparing a mobile game device with a console? Please go back to elementary school and ask the teacher to teach you YET ONCE AGAIN that you cannot compare apples to oranges :)

(BTW, since you make such a funny comment, you are more screwed than we are :D)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Todays PDAs are a more versatile option.
With the next generation of PDAs having the ability to do what the PSP can (gaming, movies, music, photos) and more, why aren't there more
vendors seeking to push this format. Sony isn't making any money on the PSP, like most console makers, it is the games where they make all their money. Sony got out of the PDA market knowing that the PSP would be it's "answer". It is a shame that there isn't more game development from the big game makers (EA, Ubisoft, etc.)in the PDA market.

As of today my PDA can do the following:Wireless internet, Office apps (word, excel, PP, access,etc.),VOIP, PIM, GPS, Games, photos, movies, music, take photos(1.3mp), ebooks and a whole lot more given the abount of software available.

And final case in point. A PSP emulator will be out soon. So that I can play all those PSP games as well.LOL
Posted by cirland (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re: Emulator
>>And final case in point. A PSP emulator will be out soon. So that I can play all those PSP games as well.LOL<<

Not legally, you can't. And if you think piracy is funny, you have a lot of growing up to do.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
Umm not really
This coming from someone who owns a iPaq 4700 with a 4" VGA screen. First off the PSP can and does wipe the floor when it comes to 3D graphics. Secondly the various GPU filters and whatnot can only be done via the CPU. The accelerators on most PDAs are good for 2D acceleration and some 3D gaming the fact is that putting a dedicated 3D accelerator in a PDA will prob never happen simply because of the price and battery life. Most people who aren't uber geeks and do not visit places like pocketpcthoughts use their PDA's for PIMing, maybe some video and audio but frankly gaming on a PDA sucks simply because first and foremost it was designed as a PDA not a gaming platform. The best gaming PDA's when it comes to button layouts were made by Casio. Unfortunately they got out of the business and no one has picked up the ball to run with it. PSP and GBA/DS systems are gaming systems first and foremost and will always be able to wipe the floor with PDA's. You speak of upcoming systems that will thrash the PSP. You do realize that Sony will prob update the PSP next year with a better GPU a better CPU more features etc. We already KNOW that Nintendo is already working on a new system for next year. We aren't talking a system that is going to stay static for 5 years. As the PDA gets updated so two will the mobile gaming platforms.

PS- Also I have yet to see ANY PDA with a screen as nice as the PSP. There simply isnt anything out there that compares.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
I also must disagree.
Sorry, but modern PDAs are more of a competitive threat for the Nintendo DS than they are for the PSP. Just look at the two.. Nintendo DS is almost built as a PDA from the ground up: Touch screen, calendar, pictochat, et cetera.. and it uses proprietary MMC style cards. It just happens to play games.

As others have posted, in terms of gaming and battery life, the PSP smokes every PDA.

The DS is closer to a PDA.
Posted by (38 comments )
Link Flag
Hey, ever heard of smartphones? Why carry a PDA when you have a hybrid of phone and PDA?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
PSP hardware flaws/bugs.
I won't be purchasing one of these until all of the bugs are worked out. What bugs? There's been complaints of the following flaws:

1. Pressing on the Right pad button, or the Square button, results in you actually putting pressure on the TFT screen itself. If Sony had increased the size of the unit by a couple centimetres, this wouldn't be a problem.

2. UMD discs ejecting in the middle of play for no reason. This has been admitted by Sony to be a problem which they "would fix", but I have seen no mentions of a fix anywhere.

3. Occasional lock-ups. My guess is heat-related, since the UMDs actually spin much like a CDROM, generating heat and general chaos inside of such a small unit.

Pretty sad bugs for such an expensive device. Am I telling you to go get a GBA DS? Hardly -- the DS is an amazing gimmick device (nice to see Nintendo focusing on such DOT-COM-like garbage...).

Anyways, my advice to potential buyers of the PSP is to wait. The price is bound to go down, the "bundle" package will sooner or later be thwarted, quantities will become available, and -- hopefully -- Sony will release a 2nd-generation version or updated model which will address the hardware flaws in question.

Once again, proof that there isn't enough QA -- or possibly, DECENT QA -- in today's technologically-savvy society.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I mentioned the flaws in a separate post and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Sony's track record in the past is merely "good" - not exceptional or excellent. Hearing of the problems of the Japanese units only confirmed my suspecions so I'm not going to spend a lot of money until I'm certain those glaring flaws have been mostly ironed out.

There was an interview with some head honcho from SCEA - I can't remember if it's in OPM 91 or if I saw it on IGN - who already said they are going to be bringing out the less-expensive basic bundle out a few months after the original "value bundle" debut.
Posted by (38 comments )
Link Flag
Did all of those flaws happen on YOUR PSP?
Or you are just here bashing PSP because you feel like it? :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Uhh (Partly) WRONG!!!
2 of these bugs are only in japan. I just got a PSP and I have checked it out. if the TFT took any pressure from the > or [] buttons, it would cause some form of color warping(Touch your monitor or the screen hard enough and it warps(DO NOT PRESS TOO HARD OR IT WILL CRACK!!!). As for the rendomly opening/ejecting door, the unit would have to be damaged to cause this. The lockups caused by heat are feasible, so I agree with you there and it could be fixed by slping a small cooling fan in there(Such as the one in the PStwo or PS2slimline models) and there would be no problems.
Posted by c2wmaster (1 comment )
Link Flag
next big thing or future footnote?
The PSP form factor is handy. Too bad Sony insists on it's own peculiar peripheral formats. Still, I can see Sony Camcorders with recordable UMDsinstead of DVD-R, Vaios with UMD-R drives & MS slots, not to mention screenblast software with templates for saving to PSP format MS/UMD.
Since they already committed to these odd formats, the more devices they show up in, the less odd they will be.
Will PSP be the next big platform, or just an isolated technological curiosity?
It will be interesting to see how Sony handles this, and if they can grow the platform.
Posted by punterjoe (163 comments )
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thank you
Posted by (1 comment )
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