Sony Planning Video Downloads for PS3?

Every since the specs for Sony’s PlayStation 3 emerged from the fog, pundits, games, and enthusiasts have wondered if Sony planned to offer downloadable music and video offerings via its “future-proof” gaming console. Now, months after the PS3’s much-delayed North American and Japanese launches, the answer appears to be yes: In an interview with 1Up, Sony’s Phil Harrison has all but announced Sony “very shortly” plans to roll out downloadable video offerings to PlayStation 3 owners:

“The decision we made to put a hard drive in every PlayStation 3 was because we saw the long term benefit,” said Harrison. “The ten year plan of allowing people to download all kinds of digital content to their PlayStation 3— not just games but movies, music, HD, standard definition TV, you name it. […] We don’t have the announcements that you’re probably looking for today, but it is digital data. We have a hard drive, we have a commerce engine, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out we will have that on the network very shortly.”

With a video download service, Sony will be going up against Microsoft’s successful Xbox Live online service, which recently rolled out a limited (but growing) selection of downloadable movies and television shows on both download-to-own and rental terms. Sony may have an edge on Microsoft and other console vendors by virtue of the fact it also controls Sony Pictures and has a hand in the music label Sony BMG, so presumably any Sony service will have its own major-name content online right out of the gate.

But Harrison doesn’t see digital delivery making the PS3’s Blu-ray drive obsolete anytime soon, noting that the “cheapest and most efficient” way to put a 50 GB game in a customer’s hands is on a Blu-ray disc in a store, although that disc might perhaps act as a key enabling the consumer to download additional content.