Sony today begins offering a software update for the PSP (PlayStation Portable) that adds several features including support for Flash content and the ability to save audio podcasts.

At present, the PSP's web browser, which itself was added to the device through a software update last year, doesn't display Flash content. The update will change that, bringing basic compatibility with Macromedia Flash 6.0, although Sony notes not all functions are supported. On the podcast side, the current player can handle live streams of files captured only through RSS (RDF site summary) but with the update users will be able to download and store files to a memory stick for offline playback.

There are several additional functions with the update including support for AAC audio, simplified and traditional Chinese characters, and an enhancement to the LocationFree TV player.

The update, which will take the PSP's firmware to version 2.70, will be available through the device's update function in the main menu and through the web, said Sony. The company has announced the update only for Japanese versions of the PSP. Typically the same update is released for overseas versions at the same time or shortly afterwards.

Today's update is one of three promised for this year. Last month SCEI President Ken Kutaragi outlined plans for the year and said a second update will follow in the "summer" and will add video podcast support and expand the video profile for the UMD (universal media disc) removable media that the PSP uses. A final software update, due in the "winter", will add the ability to boot games from memory stick media and support for VoIP (voice over IP) telephony.