PS3 beats Xbox 360 to DivX party

Keep 'em peeled PS3 owners: DivX video playback is coming soon

The Sony PlayStation 3 is set to get DivX video playback support ahead of rival console the Xbox 360 in a deal announced by DivX Networks yesterday.

It'll be music to the ears of many PS3 owners, because at the moment the only video files the PS3 can read are MP4, which is only a niche format.

New PS3 firmware imminent

DivX on the other hand, is the worlds most prolific video format, due to its unique compression algorithms which enable good quality audio and video in comparatively small file sizes.

DivX CEO Kevin Hell said in a press statement that DivX compatibility will be added to the PS3 in an imminent firmware upgrade. It looks, in fact, like the support has already partially been added to the console because with firmware version 2.00, the PS3 can recognise DivX-encoded AVI files, something it couldn't do before.

The next PS3 firmware upgrade will likely unlock the rest of the features so the files can actually be played back. DivX movies will then be playable on the PS3 either by streaming them from a PC over a network, or by putting them on a portable flash drive and plugging it into one of the console's USB ports.

DivX controversy?

The addition of DivX support to the PS3 might be seen as contentious in some quarters. That's because the vast majority of illegally pirated TV shows and movies are encoded in this format. Which means that most of the DivX movies that'll be played through the PS3 are likely to be illegal rips.

But as the format itself is absolutely legal and above board, supporting it has never been a problem for hardware manufacturers. Indeed, there are now over 100 million DivX-certified products out there in the wild.

DivX headed to Xbox 360 too?

The news is sure to stick in the craw of Xbox 360 owners who've been crying out for native DivX support for months. This is because Windows Media Center Edition PCs can only stream Windows Media video, not DivX, unless they get involved in some complicated hackery or use a third-party plug-in like MCE Video Encoder.

And with DivX on board, the PS3 now looks far more convincing as a media hub than the Xbox 360 does. Sure, the Xbox is a powerful media streamer, but if it can't play the most popular video formats, exactly how useful can it be?

However, there have been whispers recently that DivX support will also be added to the Xbox 360 when Microsoft issues its so-called 'fall update' early next month. And after hearing this news, Microsoft would be foolish if it didn't push through a DivX deal soon.