PSP download store held up by DRM

Sony will definitely offer games when it launches store but will music and movies may not be ready as Sony looks to protect content.

Fans of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) media device must continue to wait for a download store, a feature that experts have said is a must if the player is ever to launch a significant challenge to the iPod.

Sony representatives, which have been holding press gatherings in major cities in preparation for the September launch of the upgraded PSP, refused on Tuesday to set a launch date for the download store.

They did reveal that the store will launch with "short-form" games. Whether music and movies will be available at rollout is "still unclear," said John Koller, a spokesman for the PSP.

What's the holdup?

Koller said that concerns about Digital Rights Management (DRM) are part of the problem. The company is trying to find the best way to protect movies from being pirated. Sony has always been big on DRM.

British business publication The Financial Times sparked expectations about the store when it reported late last year, citing unnamed sources, that a download service would arrive by spring. Sony refused to confirm that a store was on the way until recently.

Back in 2005, when the PSP debuted, some PSP fans clamored for a download store. Many rejected Universal Movie Discs (UMD), a miniature version of the DVD created for the PSP. The format has yet to catch on with the public.

Sony's delay at offering downloads has held the PSP back, say analysts like James McQuivey, with Forrester Research. The PSP, with its high-resolution 4.3-inch screen, ability to play videogames, movies and music, should already be challenging the iPod, McQuivey told me in April.

McQuivey assessed the PSP this way: "The Sony PSP is one of the best portable entertainment media devices that anyone has come up with in years. It has a relatively big screen, plays video beautifully, has good storage and audio. It could have been the first big mobile carrier for TV shows and movies."

Instead, iPod, and not the PSP, is one of the world's most popular multi-media devices. Still, Sony is at least headed in the right direction. Another smart addition to the new PSP is a video-out cable. One of the biggest complaints among PSP fans was that they couldn't watch PSP movies or games on their TVs.

A demonstration of the video-out feature was impressive. Watching the film House of Flying Daggers, there was little resolution loss. Koller promised that downloadable movies would offer the same high quality--just as soon as they arrive.

 

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