Sky Captain and The World of PSP


So I snagged Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this weekend via BitTorrent and then converted it to run on my PSP. Guess what? It worked! I know it's supposed to, but I was pretty amazed at how easy it was. But it took forever. I mean *all* weekend for one movie.

First I went out and found a BitTorrent file for the movie. I just did a search for torrent sites, looked for something interesting and started downloading. The 700MB file took forever to download, probably because it wasn't very popular or I had a wrong seed, etc. Anyways it took overnight and into the next day before it was all down. Then I grabbed iPSP for my Mac and used it to convert the DivX .avi file to a format that my PSP would understand (MP4 with a weird screen ratio, I guess). It started churning away, but again took *hours* to finish.

I ended up with a 279MB .mp4 file which Quicktime had no problems playing, but I couldn't copy it over to my PSP! Even though I had the PSP mounted so it looked like another drive to OS X, and had erased the old sample video files that were taking up a bunch of room, the PSP wouldn't actually free up that space. I rebooted the device, remounted, restarted everything but the PSP would not recognize that I had just deleted the files (and they didn't reappear either). Very weird. I ended up formatting the Memory Stick again to get back my 512MB.

I then copied over the movie into the directory created for the sample files and WOW, is it great to watch movies on a PSP. I had already played with the Spider-Man UMD that came in the box, but I had seen that movie before. Seeing something I've never watched before on the PSP really showed how great of a device it is for media.

Now, let's think about the business behind all this. First, notice that Sony opened up the platform to both MP3 and MP4 without DRM? That's because they realize that Microsoft has won the DRM standards war. So before Sony ponies up the cash to pay Microsoft for the privilege of using Windows Media DRM, it's just going to go the open route and try to cut MS off at the knees. I've seen that the initial movie releases on UMD are actually considerably cheaper than their DVD counterparts - that's good, but honestly, this whole "physical media distribution" stuff is going the way of the original walkman. Sony, in my mind - needs to get going as a real media distribution system in a big way a la iTunes Music Store.

This could be done via a UMD that does nothing but read DRMed movies and plays them (without DRM, Hollywood isn't going to play - it's a fact). In other words, you buy one UMD which enables you to play content that you downloaded via This to me is really the opportunity for Sony and for others. Think about it - if you've got a WiFi connected machine and you've got the ability to install software (via a UMD) and store data, then hell, anyone can write a media player which plays cool content, no?

Now, I also played with the Wipeout Pure Browser Hack this weekend and it rocked (Seni has do-it-yourself instructions here). The PSP screen is *perfect* for browsing the web. My immediate thought was Yahoo needs to write a custom browser for the PSP (I have *no idea* if this is or is not happening - it's a big company.) Wouldn't that rock? You could load up the Yahoo PSP Web Browser and the Yahoo PSP Email client, etc. distributed in Toys R Us via the UMD. It'd be great!

Okay, so in summary - you can easily play movies on the PSP, but the size of the files is daunting, and the time involved is considerable. The Memory Stick Duo isn't nearly as nice as something like a Compact Flash slot, so you won't be taking much media with you at the same time. However, the cool thing is that this equates to mobile phones, so if you can see this happening on the PSP, you can also see it happening on smart phones like my 6630 as well. (I wonder if that MP4 will play on my S60 phone unchanged? I need to try it...) It's obvious to me that distribution via physical media is just dead. I've got 4 or 5 UMDs right now and it's annoying to carry around, especially in a device that's bigger than an iPod that stores tens of gigs of data. Yes, the PSP is aimed at the "mass market" which may not have broadband, but there's no reason not to supplement this strategy with a powerful online distribution mechanism like Apple did with iTunes (most of my iTunes music comes from my own CDs, but my new music comes from iTunes).

The fact that the PSP has WiFi on board is what makes this so much different than iTunes. No PC in the middle needed. It's a glimpse into the future. As I've written before, I still believe 3G is going to trump WiFi, but a device like this lets you see what it'll be like to have a consumer device connected at decent speeds meant to consume media. It's what everyone has been waiting for from Apple, no? The WiFiPod... The PSP isn't there yet, a hard drive or some massive increase in Memory Stick storage is definitely needed, but the future is there in your hand so you can grok it and see what happens when these companies start putting the puzzle pieces together.


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