Sony has launched the PlayStation Portable's answer to Apple's iTunes jukebox software: a PC-based application designed to keep the mobile device stocked with music, video, photography and other content.
PSP Media Manager copies media to the games console across a USB 2.0 link. It sniffs out suitable content on the host computer, including formats not supported natively by the handheld but which it can transcode at it transfers them over.
Like iTunes, PSP Media Manager will copy over music, including songs downloaded from Sony's own Connect online music store. Connect doesn't appear to be integrated into PSP Media Manager as the iTunes Music Store is into the Apple application. For now, Connect users will still need Sony's SoundStage app.
In addition to music, PSP Media Manager lets users copy over digital photos and videos - the latter can be encoded in Sony's AVC format, derived from H.264. Again, like iTunes it provides tools to manage and transfer podcast, electronic magazine and video blog subscriptions. It will also monitor and import new items added to websites' RSS feeds.
Gamers will be able to back-up saved-game data and shift such information between Memory Stick cards.
The software's availability will make the PSP more attractive to consumers more interested in the handheld's mobile media capabilities than its gaming features. That's clearly a direction Sony wants to take the PSP, and it's certainly something worrying Apple, which has of late stressed that its iPod has experienced higher sales than the PSP has. Indeed, given the Mac maker's frequent claims made in the past that mobile video isn't high on iPod buyers' list of desired features, we can't help wondering if the new video iPod is not more of a response to the PSP than to all those handheld video and Portable Media Center devices out there.
PSP Media Manager certainly brings features that iTunes/iPod users have embraced over to the Sony platform - again, it's hard not to view that as an attempt to attract them to the PSP.
PSP Media Manager is available immediately, Sony said, for a $20 download from the company's US website. Next month, it will ship in a boxed form for $30. That will also buy you a 6ft USB 2.0 cable, some free video and photo content, and five free downloads from Connect.
The software is currently being pitched at US consumers. According to a Sony Computer Entertainment Europe spokesman, there's no word yet on UK availability.
Sony recently said it had shipped more than 10m PSPs worldwide since the handheld's debut, in Japan, last December. ®