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As promised, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. officially released a new firmware that lets owners of PlayStation Portable to communicate with each other using Skype voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service. The move brings PSP a significant advantage over rival Nintendo DS, though, it is not certain that this advantage will make PlayStation Portable more popular in general.

Initially the new firmware version 3.90 will only be available from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and only for PlayStation Portable Slim and Lite versions. To use Skype on PSP, users simply need to upgrade to system software 3.90, register and talk, using a headset and remote control or Go! Cam. After updating the PSP system software, a Skype icon will be added to the Network category in the home menu.

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.

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.

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 game 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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