Sony music service targets Apple’s online dominance

SONY CORP yesterday launched a music streaming service in a bid to boost sales of its consumer electronics and break Apple’s dominance of the online music business.

The Japanese company’s Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity is a cloud computing-based digital music service that does not involve downloading tracks like Apple’s iTunes, which started in 2001.

Instead, a subscription gives users access to a catalogue of about 6 million songs, which can be streamed to Sony’s internet-connected devices like the PlayStation 3, personal computers and Bravia TVs. The service can be synchronised with a user’s existing music files, including iTunes, Sony said.

The service debuted in Britain and Ireland yesterday and will be rolled out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and New Zealand and the US next year. Music Unlimited follows the launch this year of an on-demand video service that is now available in the US and several European countries.

For Sony, the two services represent an effort to better connect the company’s consumer electronics with content like music, movies and games in a fiercely competitive market.

Since taking over in 2005, Sony chief executive Howard Stringer has been trying to unite the company’s sprawling businesses, cut costs and improve efficiency. In developing its new music service, Sony decided to shift away from downloadable songs, said Kazuo Hirai, executive vice-president and head of the company’s Networked Products and Services division.

“We realised that if we were playing catch up with the same (iTunes) model, it would be difficult to appeal to users,” Hirai told reporters in Tokyo.

Initially, the service is intended to mainly enhance the appeal of its products against competitors like Microsoft Corp and Samsung Electronics Co.

“But over time, it needs to stand on its own,” Hirai said.

The service cannot yet be used on portable devices such as the Walkman or cell phones, though Sony says it plans eventually to add those.

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