Sony bridges games, TV with new PlayTV

Sony says it will start selling a combined television tuner and personal video recorder that lets users of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) console capture live television that can be stored or transferred to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) for later viewing.

The device, dubbed PlayTV, is aimed at helping Sony boost sales of its high-end gaming console as well as its portable gaming unit, with the first sales to start in Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Britain in early 2008.

Sony announced the new product at the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany.

Using a format known in Europe as Digital Video Broadcasting — Terrestrial, the PlayTV integrates into the PlayStation console and lets users record individual episodes or entire series to the PS3 hard drive.

Sony said the device’s twin TV tuners are high-definition ready and able to view, record and play back in that format, and that it can be operated with the wireless controller and via a Wi-Fi connection using a remote play feature.

Recorded video can be sent wirelessly from the console to a PSP.

Sony’s PS3 is an advanced gaming system but has faced formidable competition from rivals such as Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

Sony had sold 4,3-million PS3 consoles by June, compared with 11,6-million Xbox 360s and about eight million Wii consoles.

The PS3 retails for $599 in Europe and $499 in the US. The company did not say how much PlayTV would cost or when it would be available elsewhere in Europe, Asia or the Americas.

Sony’s PSP sales have also been almost half that of Nintendo’s DS portable game device.

Jonathan Arber and Jonathan Coham, analysts at Ovum, a London-based research firm, said the PlayTV is the ”next logical step” for Sony in competing with the Xbox 360, but said the console still has to overcome its price and bring out more games.

”Ultimately, Sony needs to ensure a steady flow of high-profile, high-quality games titles this Christmas in order to really push the PS3 beyond its current niche,” they said. ”Its home entertainment functionality might be impressive, but if it doesn’t measure up as a games machine, then it will remain stuck in a niche.” — Sapa-AP

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