A substantial update to PlayStation 3's firmware will finally give the console's XMB (cross media bar) the ability to multitask, Phil Harrison has revealed to attendees of a recent Sony seminar.

Currently the PS3 becomes all but inoperative while downloading new media such as demos or film clips, with only a download progress bar to keep you entertained.

Harrison did not reveal the full scale of the XMB's new ability, but it would be absurd if the update didn't give PS3 the same impressive powers as Xbox Live's Active Downloads system, which is able to stream a download while you play games, watch movies or even turn off the console, picking up where it left off when power is restored.

Other additions will include new display options, animation options during audio playback and photo album options. A PSP remote access feature is also planned, enabling you to access PS3 content - presumably limited to movies and game clips.

Sony has also announced that in the next few weeks it will begin accepting registrations from European gamers who wish to reserve their preferred PlayStation Network gamertag.

via gamesradar