Sony Electronics Inc. announced Thursday that it has expanded support for its LocationFree wireless multimedia network into its PlayStation Portable (search) handheld gaming devices.

The San Diego-based unit of Sony Corp. said that PSP owners will now be able to use LocationFree (search) to stream TV programs or movies over a broadband Internet connection into the gaming device.

In order to begin accessing the services, a PSP must be updated with the latest version of Sony's device management software, Firmware 2.5, which can be downloaded either wirelessly or over a PC.

The upgrade allows PSPs linked with LocationFree to access video and audio content via Wi-Fi (search) hot spots with broadband access, such as those now commonly found in hotels and airports.

Prior to adding the PSP capabilities, consumers could only use LocationFree through certain models of Sony TV monitors or the company's notebook PCs, when those devices were connected to its network base station hardware, which retails for an additional $350.

Using the system, people can view content stored within their LocationFree home networks in addition to content hosted on the service by Sony.

In order to use the multimedia network on a PSP, consumers must have the LocationFree network set up in their homes.

"We know that the world of entertainment is no longer bound by the walls of the living room and that people want content when and wherever they may be," Randy Waynick, senior vice president for Sony Electronics, said in a statement.

"LocationFree and the PSP system together bring to life the ultimate portable entertainment center making location almost as obsolete as time."

The Sony announcement marks the latest in a string of moves by handheld gaming device makers aimed at pushing wireless services onto to their products.

Last month, rival Nintendo of America Inc. (search) announced a deal with fast-food chain McDonald's through which it will offer free access to a Wi-Fi gaming network to users of its DS handheld at some of the restaurant's U.S. locations.

The PSP, which retails for $250, would seem a ripe platform for introducing such expanded multimedia services, as unlike other devices it already boasts a 4.3-inch color display and the ability to play DVD-like UMP discs and MP3 audio files, and also browse the Internet.

In August, Sony released the Firmware 2.0 version of its operating system, which first allowed PSPs to access the Internet from hotspots using its onboard Wi-Fi capabilities as well as adding Wi-Fi security, and features for photo sharing and enhanced video and audio playback.

In October, Sony increased its worldwide shipment target for the PSP to 14 million units for this year.

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