For shareholders, Sony (NYSE:SNE) must be both an agony and a blessing. On one hand, it is so huge and so diversified that a major triumph in one segment does little to pay off for the shareholder. On the other hand, it is so huge and diversified that dozens of its other screw-ups haven't really killed shareholders.

What am I talking about? Take personal electronics. How could the inventors of the Walkman have lost so miserably to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod and iTunes? Sony not only had the electronics heritage, it had the content as well. Clunky designs and a stubborn allegiance to its proprietary ATRAC format guaranteed that Sony's portable music players would finish at the back of the pack.

Thankfully, Sony appears to be doing a better job with the upcoming must-have gadget, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), due to hit stores stateside at the end of March. The game platform has gotten good reviews, and earlier this month, Sony confirmed that it will be releasing movies on its proprietary mini optical disc format -- sooner rather than later. The first titles include XXX, Hellboy, Resident Evil 2, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. In the U.S., the first million units will come bundled with the joint Marvel Enterprises (NYSE:MVL) project, Spider-Man 2.

That means the PSP will be the first nearly pocket-sized device out there to integrate high-level gaming and high-resolution video along with music playback. (Hey, Sony, add the PDA functionality of your Clie line, and you'll have me for life.) Those features should help it play catch-up with the major success that is Nintendo's Gameboy DS, but the movie selection betrays Sony's differentiated target audience as well. The PSP isn't aimed at Nintendo's tweeners, but an older crowd.

That's where the iPod landed with a thud heard round the world. If Sony can duplicate even a portion of that device's success, the combination of games, movies, and music might provide a payoff big enough to move even this elephant, but just a little. Investors looking for a measurable payoff would still do better to watch content providers and proven retailers, like Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS), Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI), or Electronics Boutique (NASDAQ:ELBO).

Marvel, Electronic Arts, Activision, and Electronics Boutique are all Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Learn more by subscribing today. There's a six-month money-back guarantee if you aren't completely happy.

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Seth Jayson loves his gadgets, but he's still just eyeballing the PSP. At the time of publication, he had shares of Marvel Enterprises, but no positions in any other firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.