Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (SCEI) will release a system software update for its PlayStation Portable (PSP) next week that will add several new functions to the handheld gaming device, including the ability to browse the Internet and download TV programs, the company said Thursday.

Chief among the additions to version 2.0 of the software will be a Web browser. Accessible from the PSP's main menu, the browser supports HTML 4.01 and will allow access to most Web sites.

The PSP already has a wireless LAN for online gaming and for downloading software from the Internet, but SCEI hasn't officially allowed users to browse the Web. However, users quickly found a way to exploit a Web browser included in the Wipeout Pure game to enable access to Web sites. Instructions for doing this can be found easily on the Internet, but the software update will make Web browsing both official and much easier.

Also new will be support for downloading video in the MPEG4 AVC format. This was demonstrated at an event in Tokyo Thursday by connecting a PSP with the new software to a PSP portal site that will be launched next week by SoNet, a Sony-affiliated Internet service provider in Japan. The portal will offer downloads of TV programs and other content. Prices for the service were not disclosed.

Other new features include the ability to transfer photos from one PSP to another via an ad hoc wireless LAN, and support for additional media formats including the AAC audio format.

The version 2.0 software update will be available via the PSP's built-in update function or in UMD (Universal Media Disc) form from July 27, the company said. Information on whether the update will be simultaneously available to users outside Japan was not immediately available.

Sony also announced plans to launch a white PSP, called the PSP-1000KCW. At present the console is available only in black. The white version will be available in Japan from September 15. A value pack that includes the PSP, headphones, a memory card and other accessories will cost ¥24,800 (£128), which is the same price as the black PSP. International launch plans were not disclosed.

Sales of the PSP, which was launched in Japan in late 2004 and earlier this year in the US, totaled 5.1 million units as of July 20. Sales in the US are ahead of those in Japan, at 2.7 million units versus 2.3 million units, the company said at an event in Tokyo.