Reading the patent tea leaves: PSP keyboard and cell phone attachments

A pair of newly uncovered patents have some people wondering what is next for Sony’s popular handheld console, the PSP. Filed in November 2004, and approved in the last month, the patents are both for PSP add-ons: one is a keyboard attachment and the other is for a cell phone. We originally saw the keyboard attachment back in 2004 at E3, when Sony lifted the curtain on the PSP for the first time in North America, but it hasn’t made an appearance since.HangZhou Night Net

Beginning with its launch in 2005, the PSP has gradually added on new functionality. Of particular interest given the two patents is the 2.0 firmware, which gave PSP owners a built-in web browser to go with support for MPEG-4 AAC and WAV files long with WPA-PSK wireless security. Browsing the web on the PSP, while cool, can be an arduous process given the lack of an easy-to-use text entry system.

The cell phone (top) and keyboard (bottom)

The add-on keyboard would go a long way towards solving the problem, and if paired with a decent e-mail client, could make the PSP a respectable portable web device.

When looking at the cell phone attachment patent, the first thing I thought of was Nokia’s ill-fated NGage. The cell phone/gaming console combination never caught on, due in no small part to some unfortunate design considerations on the part of Nokia. Obviously, the PSP is a different device altogether, as its primary purpose is gaming; the phone would be a secondary use.

At this point in time, the keyboard seems to be a logical add-on for the PSP. It would easily extend the handheld’s functionality, making it easier to take advantage of the built-in 802.11b functionality for surfing and possibly e-mailing. With the PSP slated to get another update with support for Flash and RSS, the keyboard is almost a no-brainer. The cell phone attachment, by contrast, may never see the light of day as there would likely be little demand for it. What would make perfect sense with the PSP is VoIP functionality similar to that which is planned in an upcoming software update to the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. That could be accomplished with a mere firmware update and a microphone attachment.

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