Sony gets ready to introduce pricey PlayTV

Victor Godinez
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

The home-theater technology crammed into the Xbox 360 and PS3 is cool and all, but it's never been clear whether consumers care enough about downloading video or connecting their MP3 players to their systems to make it profitable. Still, Microsoft and Sony are determined to chase this potential market.

Sony's latest effort is a package of hardware and software called PlayTV that will go on sale in Europe later this year (and presumably the U.S. at some point, too). The system will let users record television shows to their PS3s like a TiVo.

You can then either watch the shows and movies on your television connected to your PS3 or wirelessly broadcast the videos to your portable PSP anywhere in the world that has a Wi-Fi hotspot.

So it's basically a TiVo-plus-Slingbox.

You may have forgotten - or never known - that Sony already has a device called the LocationFree player that mimics the Slingbox, letting you watch your local TV wirelessly on your PSP.

Sony always seemed to have a desultory interest in the LocationFree, though, dooming the product with no marketing support. (Sony never sent me one for review, despite several requests.)

Perhaps the PlayTV will enjoy a better fate. It certainly sounds more ambitious.

I, for one, would love to play with a PlayTV.

But the PlayTV probably doesn't deserve any more love from Sony than the LocationFree machine ultimately received.

Why will the PlayTV fail?

First of all, to get the full benefit, you'll need a PS3, a PSP and the PlayTV device.

Sony hasn't announced pricing for the PlayTV, but the LocationFree sells for $250.

I'd be surprised if the PlayTV, with more functionality, sells for anything less, and $300 seems more likely.

So you're looking at a roughly $1,000 investment to take advantage of this gizmo.

OK, but let's say you've got that kind of dough for games and gadgets.

What are the odds that you don't already have cable TV with a bundled DVR?

I would guess close to zero.

So who's the market for this product?

People with lots of cash who love to watch TV but don't already have cable or satellite television service.

That, I would think, is a small demographic.

Now, if the PlayTV were to let you ditch your current DVR, then we might be talking, and I'm hoping that's Sony's ace in the hole.

But this just feels like a niche technology that will receive a lot of hype when it's released and then sink into the mire of every other failed add-on hardware accessory in the history of games.

But there's no denying how cool it is.





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