Sony Said to Plan New Portable Game Player, Handsets

Sony Corp. plans to unveil an updated PlayStation Portable handheld game device on Jan. 27, followed by a game-playing smartphone in February, according to two people with knowledge of the plans.

Sony, the world’s second-largest maker of portable game players, will also outline a strategy to use its networked entertainment services to share games, movies and music among handheld products, TVs and other devices, said one person, who declined to be identified because the plan isn’t public.

With the updated portable player and the Sony Ericsson touch-screen smartphone to be shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Tokyo-based company aims to gain market share in markets dominated by Nintendo Co. and Apple Inc., according to one of the people, whose company makes mobile-phone software and was briefed on the plans.

Patrick Seybold, a Sony spokesman, declined to say whether the Jan. 27 briefing will include the announcement of a new portable product.

The company has had trouble gaining traction with the PSP, dubbed the “Walkman of the 21st Century” by former PlayStation head Ken Kutaragi. Introduced in late 2004, the PSP has failed to catch up to the popularity of Nintendo’s products, selling 18.5 million units in the U.S. to the Nintendo DS family’s 47.4 million, according to researcher NPD Group.

Proprietary Storage

Sony gained 0.6 percent to 2,968 yen today on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, compared with a 0.4 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. Nintendo was little changed in Osaka.

The original PlayStation Portable required retailers to stock, and consumers to buy, a proprietary storage format called the universal media disc. With the PSP Go, released in 2009, Sony did away with the disc drive by offering only wireless downloads of games.

Sony’s Networked Product & Service Group offers video on demand and a cloud-based music service under the Qriocity brand. With it, customers have a single log-in and payment system that can be used across Sony devices.

Apple yesterday posted a 78 percent jump in quarterly profit, helped by holiday buying of iPads, iPhones and Macintosh computers. The company, based in Cupertino, California, said it sold 16.2 million iPhones, 19.5 million iPod media players and 7.33 million iPad tablet computers, the first holiday season for the device.

Nintendo, based in Kyoto, today announced plans to sell the Nintendo 3DS handheld in the U.S. for $250 starting March 27. The device, which displays games in three dimensions without the need for special glasses, comes out next month in Japan.

The Nintendo and Sony products may boost flagging U.S. retail sales of games and hardware, Tony Wible, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, said in a research note yesterday.

Nintendo and “the PSP2 will help revitalize the industry and help fend off digital threats from Apple devices that only sell games online,” Wible said in the note.