Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sony PSP - Personal Media Device

Two of the primary trends that we focused on when we founded our company Intercasting were the rise in self expression or consumer content creation and the evolution of the mobile device into what we refer to as a Personal Media Device or PMD. I have written several posts on my blog in the past about some of the devices I consider as advanced PMD’s. They would include the Sony Ericsson P910 and the Sidekick II.

In the last several weeks I have picked up some new devices that I believe warrant a closer look as PMDs. The two newest devices I have been working with are the Sony PSP and the Nokia N90 camcorder phone. I haven’t spent enough time with the Nokia phone yet, but will be doing so over the coming days as I am attending a conference in Toronto called Mobile Active that is focused on using mobile devices as tools for social activism. I have spent a lot of time with the PSP and have a number of thoughts on this device.

The PSP is at first look, one of the most amazing PMDs I have ever seen. The form factor is generally nice. The UI is fairly straightforward. The screen is beautiful. The performance is excellent for it’s primary functions.

When we look at PMDs we think of these devices as devices that have components that allow for both the consumption AND creation of content. The PSP is all consumption. From a consumption perspective though, it is simply amazing. I wasted no time in taking my toy out of the box and immediately went to the Network settings to connect my device to the local WiFi network in my house. I had read about all the cool hacks that people had created for the first version of the software, but rather than explore that, I knew that having web connectivity with a browser was one of my primary use cases and I immediately updated the software to version 2.0.

From this point on I began to explore the various consumption methods available to me. The PSP allows me to view pictures from my memory stick Duo that I have taken on my P910 camera phone. I can also view other pictures if I can get them onto that small little memory stick. I know many people are not found of the memory stick but as a die hard Sony devotee, I am invested in this platform.

In addition to viewing still pictures, I downloaded some MP3 files and really liked the audio quality on the device. I had intended to download some beefy podcasts before I wrote this piece, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll try to load up the device for my next long flight.

I am not a fan of the little DVD format UMD, but I have to admit that it is really small and the playback is really good. Overall the video quality is just amazing. I haven’t spent much time yet trying to playback any mpeg 4 files from my p910 but expect to do that in the next couple of days. The number of titles available for the device is currently small from my perspective which didn’t give me much to choose from but I ended up picking up a copy of Sin City and really enjoyed it.

Gameplay is awesome. I am primarily a football/strategy game/first person shooter player and didn’t see any titles that appealed to me right now, although Madden comes out in a couple of weeks. I opted for Tony Hawk Remix 2, which is a great way to waste time flying back and forth across the country when you don’t have a power outlet for the laptop, which is my primary use of the device.

Web browsing is very gee whiz to me in that it is really cool to know that I have a readily accessible web device that I can whip out at any airport to do a quick check of webmail or go onto our company intranet for my calendar, our wiki, or our reporting area. Unfortunately it feels really slow. Painfully slow. I have had intermittent connection issues and I have been having out of memory issues when I load heavier websites. I am not entirely sure why that is as I have been using a 128 meg memory stick.

All in all a very cool device. What it is missing is anything that allows me to create content. Or at least create content easily. I conceivably could use the web interface to update my blog but the UI for text entry leaves a bit to be desired.

The PSP really showcases how you can step up media consumption from where it is today with the various Ipods to something approaching a nuclear device of consumer time wasting and media overload. What completely baffles me is why there was no thought about people using the device to capture content. I understand that a USB keyboard is coming soon, but it would have been really cool to add some things like a camera. Or Bluetooth to use with my cell phone when I can’t get wifi, which unfortunately is all too common.

As I head out on the plane today with my bag of gadgets I look at each of my devices and find some great things that they each have and some missing pieces that in some configuration would be an ideal device or two for me. I love the P910 for its Opera browser and fairly easy email functionality. I also love that I can take passable quality video and pictures that I can share with others that are mobile originated. I love the instant messenger integration of my Sidekick II and the form factor of the keyboard which lends itself to good textual content origination. The web browser leave a bit to be desired and I can’t wait until they have a better camera. The PSP is the mother of all media consumption for me but that’s about it.

As we continue to see the increased awareness in the general public that we are entering an age where more and more consumers want to create content to share with others, and also consume content not originated from the center of the media network, I believe that we will see the emergence of devices that really begin to marry the best attributes of the many new devices we see in the marketplace. I don’t believe that we will ever get to the fabled one device, but I think we will increasingly find new devices that bring together a deep and useful feature set that will empower users at the edge of the network to become the media broadcast and distribution nodes that we believe is the next inevitable evolution of what we think of as media.

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