Sony yesterday outlined software and hardware features that it plans to add to its PSP gaming device during 2006.

The company is planning three software updates during the year, said Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, at a briefing for software developers in Tokyo. Previous updates have added such things as an internet browser.

The first update will come during the spring, when a software update will be offered that adds support for Macromedia's Flash, the ability to download audio podcasts, a Chinese font set and software support for a camera and GPS unit.

The camera and GPS unit themselves will be launched in September and October respectively, but by adding the software support earlier, Sony will enable developers to write software to make use of the new hardware, Kutaragi said.

The second software update due this year will be 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 VoIP (voice over IP) telephony.

The former will enable software companies to offer games that can be downloaded across the network and then run from the Memory Stick, Kutaragi said. The latter will work with the camera module and enable the PSP to be used as a VoIP handset or a video-conferencing tool. The PSP includes a Wi-Fi adapter for network access.

Sony also announced plans to sell a cheaper version of the PSP in Europe and the US.

In Japan the handheld gaming device has been available in two versions – a basic and value pack – since launch, but in other markets only the more expensive value pack has been available. The value pack includes extras such as a Memory Stick memory card. The basic model will be available in Europe from 22 March and will cost €199 (about £140) and in the US from late March and will cost $199 (£115), Kutaragi said.