December 22, 2010

Sony Launches Music Streaming Service

Sony Corp. has launched a music streaming service in an attempt 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 digital music service that does not involve downloading tracks like Apple's iTunes.

A subscription will allow users to access a catalog of about 6 million songs, which can be streamed to Sony's Internet-connected devices like the PlayStation 3, personal computers and Bravia TVs. 

Sony said the service can be synchronized with a user's existing music files, including iTunes.

The service debuted in the U.K. and Ireland Wednesday and will be rolled out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and the U.S. next year. 

"Music Unlimited" follows the launch of an on-demand video service that is available in the U.S. and several European countries.

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

Sony's Chief Executive Howard Stringer has been trying to unite the company's sprawling businesses by cutting costs and improve efficiency since he took over the reigns of the company in 2005.

Kazuo Hirai, executive vice president and head of the company's Networked Products and Services division, said that in developing its new music service, Sony decided to shift away from downloadable songs.

"We realized 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.

The service is initially 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 be used on portable devices like smartphones yet, but Sony says it plans to eventually add it to those.


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