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Sony to launch PSX update

Free software upgrade brings back functionality lost in Christmas rush.

The first in a series of free software upgrades for the recently launched PSX media centre is set to arrive in Japan at the beginning of February - but retailers in Japan are reported to be highly critical of the system's performance so far.

This first update, which restores much of the functionality that was removed from the original specification before Christmas, will be made available online at the beginning of February, while for those who haven't connected their PSX to the Internet, a version on CD will be available later in the month.

Sony will be hoping to address some of the concerns of key electronics retailers with this update, as in a recent survey of retailers carried out by the Nikkei Marketing Journal, the removal of features before Christmas was listed as a major problem with the system.

The same survey also revealed that some 40 per cent of retailers were disappointed with sales of the device so far - not a majority, but certainly enough to make Sony somewhat uncomfortable. The company's marketing campaign for the PSX was also identified as a key issue, with retailers claiming that it was unclear and failed to convey the strengths and abilities of the system to consumers.

Although Sony's marketing blitz for the PSX prior to Christmas was massive, it was a traditional Sony effort in that it focused primarily on brand appeal and contained little information - an approach which doesn't work for devices such as the PSX, claim retailers. The company plans to respond to this criticism by launching a new marketing campaign for PSX in spring.

The first step in building confidence over the product, however, is restoring the originally promised specification. Included in the first upgrade is compatibility with TIFF images and MP3 music, as well as a module allowing compatibility with USB keyboards and an increase in the speed at which video can be recorded to DVD to 24x.

All of these upgrades are part of the original PSX specification, but were stripped out late last year in order to ensure that the system launched in time for Christmas. At the time, there were howls of protest from media commentators and analysts alike, but Sony has always maintained that the reduction was a temporary one, and it didn't seem to adversely affect sales of the PSX over Christmas.

A second update is planned for March, which will restore compatibility with the GIF image format, DVD+RW discs, the Sony Cybershot camera and PlayStation network gaming (the system possesses a network port but currently isn't capable of using it for PS2 online games).

A firm launch date for the PSX in Europe has yet to be set, but it's expected to roll out later this year - and will almost certainly include the entire feature set as originally announced when it appears on these shores.

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