Via Eurogamer, during the Develop Conference 2011 Phil Rogers, an R&D developer with Sony, revealed that there are plans to allow quite a bit of interaction between the PS Vita and PS3. Among those he mentioned:
PS3 can send data down to Vita and Vita can display it. You could use the unique features [of Vita] -- gyroscope, touch front and back -- as a control device for a PS3 game.
You can run software on both devices and use the network to sync the game states. And that's pretty good, because you then have the processing power of PS3 doing that work, Vita [doing] fancy graphics -- however you want to do it. You're not sacrificing the PS3's CPU to be able to have a rich experience on Vita.
There's also cross-platform play planned for some titles (Eurogamer mentions WipEout HD and Hustle Kings). Then there's remote play, and of course what was hinted at already: continuation play. The last being the concept that you can save your data, have it on the PS Vita, and continue gaming on the go.
These all sound like terrific features, and yet a part of me wonders how many developers will actually use it, and of those that do, who will use it in a non-gimmicky manner. As developers cannot guarantee that a player will have a PS Vita, developing the features for it may well not be a priority, if at all on the table. This would largely mean it would be an added bonus, and that things could not be developed that would purely use the Vita, as the basics have to all be able to be performed by the Sixaxis.
While I am sure we'll see Sony-owned Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch use it in some manner, it's not as if they can force others to partake. It will likely depend on the success and install-base of the PS Vita itself.
Then there's the question of the Wii U. Considering the poor way of initially presenting the Wii U to the masses (the confusion over whether it was a new controller, new console, both, etc.), this seems to be going in much the same direction that Nintendo is next sailing their consoles. Then again, price will likely be a factor. Unfortunately, too much about the Wii U is still unknown, so beyond the fact that one of its controllers is to come with the Wii U package, there's only so much economic speculation into which I feel comfortable delving. I remain dubious about how much this makes for direct competition between the two, though.
Now, given that the word in various opinion articles based on just opinion and others based on economic soothsaying is that handheld gaming will face an uphill struggle against tablet and mobile gaming, it does seem like such cross-functionality could be ideal for boosting the desire for such a device in the PS3 install-base already. This may also speak to why the handheld may well not be region-free (Michael Denny, who is the vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe has previously stated he's pretty sure it isn't, but there has been no 100% confirmation as yet that I've seen), as the nightmares of getting two devices from different regions working together, or games in such a manner, would likely be a headache. Could be done, I'm sure, but wouldn't be pretty.
I had plans for a PS Vita anyway, but it makes me wonder how many people would purchase for functions like continuation play if it were implemented well and in a widespread manner.