Touch Screen, UMD-free, PSP2 - experts claim

But UMD safe for now. Industry experts predict future of Sony's handheld

Sony's PSP2 will feature a touch-screen, with UMD's ditched in favour of internal flash memory game downloads and improved PS3 link-up - predicts a panel of industry experts recently polled by PSM3. "What Sony needs to do now is ride it (PSP) out until their next portable machine and try for a restart", reveals respected technology journal Wired's Chris Kohler, "Maybe add a touch screen. That's certainly an excellent time to get rid of UMD."

UMD, however, is safe for now, predicts Kohler - and the recent PSP price drop may mean an influx of new games. "The PSP, like most consumer devices that undergo a price drop, is selling substantially better than it was before it was $170. As shown at CES,Sony's focus would now seem to be the transformation of PSP into an all-in-one fun productivity gadget with various add-ons and firmware updates, which might keep things moving along at an acceptable pace."

"But this growth might also actually stimulate some software development, which went off a cliff at some point last year. But in terms of cheaper casual titles - no more big-budget flops. They've gotten burned with those and the feeling won't go away during PSP's lifecycle. PSP in its current form won't get any more major operations, like the excising of UMD that people seem to be in a tizzy predicting. That can't happen."

UMD has a deeper strategic value at retail, argues leading development website Gamasutra's Senior Editor Brandon Sheffield. "Though the UMD format hasn't exactly caught on, it gives Sony more shelf-space, something they might be keen to keep up with Nintendo (DS) encroaching on their space". Sheffield is unperturbed by Sony's recent announcement that Blu-ray discs will come bundled with a PSP version of the film. "As far as Blu-ray content, I don't think that will contribute to phasing out UMDs until such time as the PS3 installed base is proved to be as large as or larger than the UMD movie-buying population - and that those groups are similar and have similar purchasing habits."

"I do however thing that Blu-Ray-to-PSP is a much more enticing proposition than buying UMDs separately, for a host of obvious reasons - not the least of which is the allure of effectively buying one movie for two formats. I think consumers will like it, and I'm sure Sony has built in some online reporting system to the PS3 that allows them to see if customers are making use of the service."

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