Sony PSP to hear the music

Handheld game gadget will be tied in to Sony's Connect music download service.

SAN MATEO, Calif.--Sony will hook up its PlayStation Portable handheld game player to its digital music service, a high-ranking executive confirmed Monday.

Speaking at the iHollywood Digital Living Room forum here, Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures, said the Japanese giant plans to release software that would let the PSP synchronize with Connect, Sony's entertainment download service. The company also plans to launch software that would let the PSP link to PCs and Macs within a year, he said.

Although the PSP is mostly viewed as a game player, Sony believes that the device--which went on sale in Japan last December and is expected to hit the United States on March 24--will become a versatile mobile device. Consumers, the company says, will use it to watch videos, listen to music or connect to the Internet through a built-in Wi-Fi connection.

"The PSP is the first entertainment Swiss Army Knife," Landau said.

But like many Sony products, the PSP is something of an island. To watch movies on the PSP, for instance, consumers will have to choose from a limited selection of titles released on Sony's new Universal Media Disc (UMD) format. The first North American PSPs will come bundled with a UMD copy of "Spider-Man 2," a Sony Pictures film.

The push to make Sony products more compatible with common standards began last year, when the company relented to market pressure and began adding support for MP3 files to its digital-music players. Howard Stringer, who was appointed Sony's CEO on Sunday, said in an interview in January that the company wanted to produce products that worked with a wider array of content.

Landau on Monday complained about Sony's reliance on Memory Stick, a flash memory card format invented and largely promoted by Sony. The PSP relies on Memory Stick for storing game data and shuttling content from a PC.

"The Memory Stick is ridiculously overpriced," he said, adding that he hoped Sony would begin to "price it more competitively."

Landau further stated that overall, Hollywood studios are becoming more amenable to the idea of allowing consumers to shuttle content between devices.

"It will be very easy for you to get video on your portable device" within a year or so, he said. Initially, portable devices will get their video content through UMD discs, removable memory cards or hard-drive downloads, he said.

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