Sony Plans Music-Ready PlayStation Portable; Mac Compatibility

Sony Corp. will soon turn its popular PlayStation Portable (PSP) game unit into a music player, announcing Monday it will release software that will allow users to download songs from its Connect music service. The company also plans software that would let the PSP link to PCs and Macs within a year.

Speaking in California, Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures, said the plan is to turn the PSP into a versatile, portable device for games, music, videos and much more. Integrate the service with Sonyis online music store will allow the Japanese electronics giant to come somewhat closer to competing with Apple Computer and its combination iPod digital media device and iTunes Music Store, which has dominated the online music and player market worldwide.

The PSP was launched in Japan in December and will be available in the U.S. in late March.

In terms of technologies, the PSP has an advantage over the iPod in that it has wireless Internet capability via WiFi, but lacks the hard drive storage capability of an iPod or iPod mini by storing music files on its proprietary flash memory card format, known as Memory Stick.

Of interest, Mr. Landau was publicly open in criticizing the companyis Memory Stick format, saying it is "ridiculously overpriced" and hinting better pricing would soon be in the offing. The last time Sony made a similar admission was last year when it said it was a mistake not supporting the MP3 music format on its digital music players. Within 60 days, the company announced it would add MP3 support, thereby hopefully pleasing customers and selling more players.