Sony PSP Media Manager: It's not iTunes, but it works
So I ponied up the $20 for the new Sony PSP Media Manager software so I could try out the Podcasting support and see if it was anything like the experience I get with iTunes. My Macs aren't supported, so I pulled out my venerable Toshiba Celeron WinXP Lappy and my credit card and grabbed the download off of Sony's site. I already own PSPWare, so I knew sort of what to expect from the software. When you plug in a PSP and set it on USB mode, it just turns into another drive, so all the software has to do is handle some basic file syncing to work. Nothing special - Sony should really be giving this away with each PSP purchase, not charging $20 for it... but I digress.
Let me just start by saying the software works as advertised. It's definitely does the job of syncing photos, music and video, and works as a podcatcher pretty well too. I do wish I could change the default color scheme (IBM blue on black), but it installed without problems and does everything it's advertised to do including ripping CDs, game backups, converting video, etc. This is good. I didn't completely waste my money. Well, it'd be nice to have an integrated Podcast Catalog like iTunes, and the ability to buy content as well, but it's not bad for a start. Seriously, though, I can't imagine they'll be charging for this app for long. It's just dumb to try to do that, especially with iTunes out there.
Now, the thing I most wanted to do with the Media Manager was find out if I could play video encoded for the new iPod on the PSP - obviously not the DRMed stuff from the iTunes music store, but just any of the new iPod-formated Video Podcasts out there. I grabbed a few of the feeds I've already seen work on my iPod with video, and added them to the feed list. The Media Manager quickly downloaded the video, and then immediately started to reformat the video to work on my PSP. Very cool! Though it did take the better part of 40 minutes, and the resulting file was 250MB (1/2 of my 512MB Memory Stick) it works! And that to me is a pretty cool thing. Sadly there's no DiVX support (it's a Sony thing, not a technical thing I'm sure) but other than that it works really well.
While I had my Windows box out, I played with TVHarmony's Autopilot which will automatically grab video from your TiVo and convert the huge MPEG-2 files automatically into content your iPod and PSP can view. It can be even set up to do so automatically by name - so you can have your favorite programs be sucked out of your TiVo each night and then synced with your iPod in the morning... it's pretty cool. I have to say I love this stuff. What I can't understand is why TiVo isn't letting me do the opposite yet, and allow me to grab video podcasts off the net and store them on my TiVo to be played when I want to on my TV, where I view most of my personal video. I'm sure it's got to be on a drawing board somewhere, now that the Netflix deal is over, those guys need to start getting really innovative like that soon!
Here's my last thought: The freakin PSP has *WiFi! Why do I have to even bother with a PC to do all this stuff? Hopefully Sony realizes this too, and we can look forward to a firmware upgrade that includes some basic podcast support as well. Browsing to a site and saving media files is a time consuming process... it'd be so great to just leave it in the corner plugged in and have it go off and fill itself up with content for me without me having to do anything, and then when I picked it up it'd be ready to go full of content. That would *definitey* be an iPod killer, no? Podcasting with no syncing needed.... it would rock.
Cool stuff. Totally worth the price to play.
Update: Here is a little 3GP video taken from my 6680 of the two devices playing the same video podcast. You can't really tell, but it's perfectly clear on both devices, but the PSP is definitely the hands-down winner when it comes to screen quality. (I tried to focus in, but it didn't work... heh.). It's a shame that Apple had to essentially create this new resource before Sony got around to tapping it, but now that they have hopefully they'll make a real effort in the space.
The main problem I see is the conversion time... I can't seem to find a video codec combination that will play on both devices without converting them. Am I missing something? -R