07:29 PM

PSP-Pod? Could Sony's latest mobile gaming system beat out Apple's forthcoming multimedia "mPod"?

. . .communities of users are hacking into the PSP and creating a platform device


The big question about our story on Apple's "mPod" (our pet name for it) is, what exactly would it be capable of? In his analysis, Tom argues that just as they did with music, Apple could convince Hollywood studios and production companies to entrust Apple's DRM with their precious content -- an enormous coup for Steve Jobs.

The Broadcom Alphamosaic chip that Apple has ordered is capable of video, wireless and 3D gaming. Which makes it seem an awful lot like the Sony PSP. So folks at Apple might well be looking at what's happening with the PSP these days.

The PSP contains a movie player, game system, music player, a JPG image viewer -- and most importantly, a Wifi receiver. Hmm, Wifi and video on the same device? Can you say BitTorrent? Sites like PSPCrazy, PSP 411, and 8Bit Joystick have dozens of links to tutorials on hacking the PSP.

Check out How to get iTunes DRM-protected music onto the PSP, How to read RSS on the PSP, and How to convert video for PSP viewing.

Dave Weinberger wonders how long until Sony tries to shut down this outpouring of creativity. Well, they might be unpleased to realize that Sony films are being pirated onto their very own device, but it's hard to see how one shoves the cat back in the bag.

I was particularly fascinated with the

tutorial on PSPcasting
, where I learned about ANT, a video enclosure RSS reader for Mac.

When you think about podcasting, you realize that this is a totally unexpected side effect of trends not in Apple's control. The iPod became a hardware platform for network application -- without itself being a networked device. Imagine the possibilities of a networked, video-playing iPod directly running ANT. What hackers are doing right now, with difficulty, on PSP, Apple could make available to the masses.

Imagine further a development platform for the mPod. As Jake from 8Bit Joystick says:

It would be slick if Sony would allow other developers to make mini applications or plugins for the PSP via a Firmware update and a SDK. I am sure that there are plenty of software hackers that would love to put together an RSS reader, and web browser for the PSP.

To do so would not, I think, run in opposition to their coalitions with Hollywood. I still don't think that a 3.5in screen is a great way to watch feature films (although I'm impressed with the fact that the PSP screen perfectly fits the letterbox format). But consider MTV's announcement of a Web-based channel for videos and interviews. That is the perfect content for PSP/mPod.

It would be in perfect step with the "rip, mix, burn" philosophy that the Macintosh line is built on. In his ETech keynote, Larry Lessig talked about "kids writing in video," meaning the digital manipulation of media content for self-expression. Portable networked media devices are the perfect platform for that expression.

The major meme of the recent ETech conference was "remix," and Rael Dornfest pointed out that hacking is quickly moving down the food chain to average (young) consumers.

More than ever, if manufacturers do not provide the tools for self-expression, which includes sharing, the hackers will step in.

Foremski's Take: Richard has highlighted a potentially tremendous competitive advantage for Sony, should it want to take it. Our advice to Sony is leave the PSP hackers alone, let them use the device in any way they want. By the time the mPod comes out, (probably early 2006) there will be a large number of "open source" hacks and the Sony PSP community could have an unassailable momentum.

It used to be that Apple was the upstart, the iconoclast, but that image has changed a lot in recent years as the company has sought to make it very difficult to copy and "remix" protected digital content. Clearly, this has been done to assure the recording industry that Apple offers a secure DRM platform. And this will have to be the same philosophy applied to the mPod, making it far less hackable, to show Hollywood that their content will be safe.

Also, Sony has games, Apple doesn't. Microsoft has games....ah, maybe mPod could be Microsoft Pod? Microsoft won't get any DRM business because it can't safeguard its operating systems, let alone a DRM, so an alliance with Apple might make sense.

And doesn't the new Xbox use an IBM Power microprocessor? Apple Macs are Power based, and IBM has embedded Power chips available...it all starts getting very interesting.