Sony launches new PlayStation portables -- The handheld device can run video games, display photos, and play movies on a mini-screen

By Gary Eng Walk
Updated March 21, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

It’s not just gamers and technophiles who are counting down the hours to March 24, when one million PlayStation Portables will go on sale in the U.S. and Canada. Sony has a lot riding on the $250 machine, which, in addition to its cool gameplay, can play MP3s, display digital photos, and — thanks to a high-resolution LCD screen — show movies. In a post-iPod world, it’s clear that Sony wants its piece of the lucrative gadget-obsessed youth market.

”We’re not trying to just take business away from Nintendo’s DS or from Apple’s iPod,” explains Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Kaz Hirai. ”We want to create a new market.” A market that will rest largely on a 2.5-inch piece of plastic called the Universal Media Disc. Sony will pack a UMD version of Spider-Man 2 (yay, synergy!) in this first batch of PSPs, to be followed by more Sony films, including XXX, Hellboy, and House of Flying Daggers, for $20 to $30 a pop. And the company hopes to persuade other studios to join it. Already Lions Gate has announced plans to release films from its library, including Terminator 2, on UMD.

Still, the paperback-size machine, at least initially, will end up in the sweaty hands of hardcore gamers. But if the PSP’s Japanese launch three months ago is any indication, the multifunctional gadget is on its way to becoming the next little thing.