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Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has announced on its web-site dedicated to Consumer Electronics Show that shortly its handheld PlayStation Portable game console will get a special version of Skype voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) software, which will allow owners of PSP not only to play games, listen to music or watch movies, but also to chat with friends.

“Call friends, talk trash to fellow gamers or catch up with acquaintances via Skype for PSP system,” an advertisement by Sony reads.

Back in August 2007 the leading maker of game consoles teamed up with British Telecom to add VoIP functionality to PlayStation Portable device. The service by BT was based on its BT Softphone software and end-users had to pay for their calls. With Skype for PSP inside, gamers will only have to ensure their PSPs are connected to a wireless network and can make calls for free, or at a very low rate, if they phone to a landline or cell phone.

With Skype loaded, Sony PlayStation Portable game console becomes one of the most sophisticated entertainment and communication devices available. Even though PSP owners will still have to carry a cellphone with them, they may not need to have an advanced and heavy handset.

There are several obvious benefits of the decision to load Skype onto PSP: firstly, Sony introduces an advantage of PSP over Nintendo DS by packing communication capabilities into PlayStation Portable; secondly, the company now offers a powerful game platform that may compete against devices which primary functionality is making phone calls, e.g. smartphones or personal digital assistants; thirdly, PlayStation Portable now has features to compete against Nokia’s highly-discussed N-gage service.

Nokia tried to penetrate the market of handheld game consoles with its N-gage-series of phones several years ago, but failed and now is about to introduce N-gage service to its Symbian-based smartphones, which would enable relatively high-quality gaming experience to the masses. Given the popularity of Nokia phones as well as quality of titles and their affordability, the new N-gage has more chances to compete for gamers on the go.

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