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Sony details PlayStation video, news and weather services

New non-gaming initiatives for 2008


The PlayStation 3 and PSP have always been high on multimedia functionality, but Sony appears to be intent on taking things to the next level. The company held a group strategy briefing in Tokyo today, with the focus squarely on the non-gaming side of the PlayStation family, including new video and news services.

While major Sony executives, including CEO Howard Stringer and CFO Nobuyuki Oneda, were in attendance at the event, it was Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kazuo Hirai who did the honors with the PlayStation-related announcements. Following a recap of the gaming areas of the systems, he moved on to the what he described as areas of further growth for the brand: "non-games" and network. "We'll be placing the focus on these two areas this year," said Hirai.

The first non-gaming initiative addressed by Hirai was Sony's long-awaited video download service. Starting this summer in America, and later in Japan and Europe, PS3 owners will be able to download videos via the PlayStation Network. Movies and television programs will be available for download and streaming viewing through a new section of the PlayStation Store. PSP users will be able to "check-out" videos from their PS3 media hub.

While further details will be announced at E3 next month, sample images of the video store shown at the press conference resembled the current PlayStation Store, right down to windowed video previews of content. The sample store image had buttons allowing the user to toggle between video store and game store, suggesting that PS3 users will have to access just one main shop interface to get all their downloadable content.

Categories of video content in the sample images included "New Arrivals," "Movies," "Television," "Anime," "HD Only," "Rentals," "Purchase", and "Top Downloads." The sample images also listed pricing for a couple of titles: a Ghost Rider rental in HD at $5.99 and a Ghost Rider purchase copy in SD at $12.99. These prices are presumably not finalized.

PlayStation products are just the start for Sony's video plans. By 2010, Sony plans on expanding the download service to televisions, PCs, and mobile phones.

Outside of the video service, Sony debuted a new initiative at the press conference: Life with PlayStation. This series of applications will give PlayStation 3 access to news, weather and more.

The first segment of the Life with PlayStation project is Live Channel. Hirai demonstrated this application at the event, opening up an interactive globe interface which offered news and weather reports. The globe displays recreations of weather and reflects the current time conditions with changed lighting. As you spin the globe, headlines appear; these can be clicked on to open up more details in a separate window.

Users can play music off their PS3 in the background as they use the application. The full XMB music interface can be brought up at any time to select a preferred song, or users can have the application chose songs for them, selecting between music styles like energetic, relaxing, happy, and dramatic.

Future plans could see the Life with PlayStation service take on a completely different form. Hirai mentioned the possibility of introducing a timeline interface for letting PS3 owners sort and view their photographs and videos both by location and time.

While Life with PlayStation appears to be a PS3 project at the moment, Sony also shared details on a few new initiatives for the PSP. Pointing out current communication services such as the GPS and 1seg peripherals and Skype compatibility, Hirai promised to expand the system's network functionality this year. Most notably, PSP will at last get direct access to the PlayStation Network this year.

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