Update: 2.6 is very buggy, upgrading is not recommended yet.
Sony just released a new firmware update v2.6 for the PSP with RSS(!) and Windows Music support. I'm downloading it to try now, but I think this is a pretty cool update. I have to say, besides Sony's insistence on hammering the homebrew scene, they've done good things with the PSP firmware updates, adding a browser, LocationFree support and now this stuff. As long as there's not a root-kit installed, then I'm willing to give them two thumbs up! Nice job Sony!
The addition of RSS to this device is something I really wasn't expecting. It makes perfect sense - the killer app for the browser has been Bloglines mobile, so now that I'll be able to snag a bunch of feeds right on the device itself before walking out the door? That's pretty cool.
Waiting.... Okay, it's installed.
Hehehe. Surprise, surprise. So I immediately went to the "RSS Channel" app and started it up, and it gave me a message that I didn't have any subscriptions, and asked me if I wanted to open up the browser so I could add some. I said yes, and arrived at this page. Awesome, there's a whole tutorial there with step-by-step images on how the whole thing works. (Phew! I thought I was going to have to start taking pictures...) It works pretty simply, find an RSS link in the browser, click on it, and the PSP will ask you if you want to subscribe to the feed. Click 'yes', and you're done. Alright, so I've done that.
Okay, ready for this? I just added my blog feed, and when I got out of the browser and into the RSS Channel, I could see my feed, but none of my articles were coming up. Hmmm. Since I also added the demo link on the landing page, I tried that also and low-and-behold! The RSS support isn't for reading news!!! I thought it was an RSS News Reader, but it's not! It's a Podcatching system!! Wild!
It's right there on the About link, had I bothered to read it closely:
About RSS Channel
Using the PSP(TM) system's RSS Channel feature, you can add link information to your channel list that will enable your system to link to RSS-distributed audio content available on Web pages.
When connected to the Internet, the system will automatically update the list of audio content that has been added to these pages, and you can then play the new content on your system.
The PSP(TM) system's RSS Channel feature uses RSS (Really Simple Syndication) 2.0 technology.
- Note that the only type of RSS-distributed content that can be played on the PSP(TM) system is digital audio content. You can access and play audio content provided in a form that complies with RSS version 2.0 (such as content available for "podcasts").
- The PSP(TM) system can play audio content in MP3 and MP4 (AAC) formats.
- Audio content will be available for streaming playback only. Depending on the Internet connection and content file size, the audio stream may pause or stop during playback.
This is interesting! It doesn't actually download the audio - it uses the RSS feeds to tell you what Podcasts are available, but then streams the file, rather than download it for offline use. Wild. It makes perfect sense, unless you have a really big Memory Stick, you wouldn't be able to grab more than just a few (if that) podcasts anyways. Neat stuff - not great if you want to use your PSP to play podcasts while driving to work, but sitting around the house or at a Cafe with WiFi and you've got a pretty cool solution - no more syncing needed!
Okay, so let's bop over to Yahoo's Podcast directory to try it out on some real world podcasts. We'll need to clean up the page a bit (it's a bit noisy for the PSP browser to deal with easily) but it seems to work okay. Alright, it made me sign in, urgh! But after that it's good. The trick is to not click on the "listen" or "subscrib" buttons, but rather, go into the description and click on the highlighted RSS link there. I just subscribed to NPR's Science Friday and COOL! There's like 30 shows to choose from right off the bat! Click on one about sleep (apropo for a 12:30 a.m. post.) And, after a 20 second pause... there it is! Cool!
Alright, that was fun. Now when do we get Video support? Seems like a huge missed opportunity! :-) And honestly, I've got a 1GB memory stick in this bad boy, so it'd be nice to have the option to download the files as well. Streaming is nice and convenient, but downloading is pretty useful. Though I guess that's what I bought the Sony Media Manager for, right? (Though it should definitely be free).
I have to say that I'm surprised at how geeky this functionality is for a consumer-focused company like Sony... You only get linked to the HTML help page above ONE TIME, after you've added your first podcast RSS feed, that's it. No more help. If I hadn't saved that page, I'd never have seen it again. Also, with all the buzz around "podcasting," you'd think that Sony might have done something to play off that word - like AudioCatching or something. Using an acronym like RSS confused me as a power user, and will completely freak out normal consumers. They'll never look at that option. But hey, I'm not going to complain too much, I'd rather Sony keep pushing the functionality out like this rather than wait until everything is perfect. I can't wait to see what happens in the next rev. Go Sony!
Alright, so the other interesting thing about this release is the half-step Sony made towards using Microsoft codecs. The support for WMA music only is probably the simplest thing they could possibly add to the PSP without getting too far into the whole Microsoft DRM world... But it's going to happen, you know it. it'll make the device so much more usable, and allow Sony to license some sort of Music and Media portal from some third party like LoudEye and make the PSP that much more compelling to buy. Microsoft's already won this one... Sony might as well just get on with it, so I can connect my PSP to something like MoveLink tomorrow and grab the latest videos to watch while portable. That's not going to happen without a MS DRM codec of some sort helping it out.