Sony has launched a Web portal through which owners of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) can download video clips.

The Portable TV site offers at launch a small selection of movie previews, animated cartoons, entertainment, digests of TV dramas, music, lifestyle programming, and sport. Content is initially available at no cost.

Launch of the site coincides with the availability of a software update for the PSP that adds features required for the service. These new features include a Web browser and support for the MPEG4 AVC video codec and AAC audio codec in which the clips are encoded. The downloaded video files require a MemoryStick Duo memory card for storage.

Users will be able to access and download clips in two ways, said Yoshio Takushima, chief of the mobile TV service group at Sony Communication Network (SCN), which is a unit of Sony, at a Tokyo news conference.

The first is directly from the PSP using the newly added Web browser and the already-present built-in wireless LAN adaptor, he said.

However, the PSP’s WLAN adaptor supports the 802.11b standard, which has a maximum data throughput of 11Mbps (bits per second), so that could mean a long wait when downloading large video files. A 1GB file, for example, will take more than 10 minutes to download over a wireless connection assuming it’s running at top speed.

So Sony has a second option: download via PC. This means users can take advantage of much faster broadband connections to get the content more quickly. When using this method the PSP needs to be attached to the PC via a USB cable so that the file can be written directly onto the PSP’s Memory Stick. As a protection against piracy it is not stored in the PC.

The service is initially available to anyone with a user ID and password for SCN’s So-Net portal. Sign-ups can be accepted on the Portable TV home page, at http://www.p-tv.jp , and there is no geographical or national restriction on joining, although the service and sign-up is only available in Japanese, said Takushima.

When the paid service starts, users will be required to provide credit card details, and SCN hasn't yet decided if it will restrict the purchase of premium content to only those with a Japanese card. Apple uses a similar system to control access to its regional iTunes Music Store sites.