updated 08:15 am EST, Thu February 17, 2011
Sony says iTunes safe as Music Unlimited hits US
Sony on Thursday took quick steps to shut down worries that it might leave iTunes even as it brought a competitor to the US. Its Network Entertainment COO Brandon Layden said Sony had "no intention of withdrawing." Apple's music store was too important to leave despite the PlayStation's Australian group chief Michael Ephraim's comments, Layden told SAI.
"[iTunes is] one of our biggest partners in the digital domain," he said. "I think those words were either taken out of context or the person who spoke them was unclear on the circumstances."
Ephraim had raised the possibility of Sony quitting iTunes if Music Unlimited caught on. He felt publishers had been "held ransom" by Apple's lead in the market and could still dictate terms.
Alongside the remarks, Sony has ported Music Unlimited to the US as well as Australia and New Zealand. The subscription plan will give the PS3, Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players streaming access to millions of tracks from all major and some independent labels.
The service is uniquely pay-only but is potentially less expensive to use than some rivals. A Basic service at $4 per month provides professionally managed stations but comes ad-free and has freedom to skip tracks any amount of times. Premium service at $10 per month provides full on-demand control. Either tier can compare a personal collection with the Music Unlimited catalog and give on-demand access to songs a listener already owns on another device.
Sony doesn't initially have a way to use the service off of a TV-attached hub but will have access on the PSP in late February and on Android later in 2011; the NGP is also probable. iOS hasn't been ruled out, but Apple's insistence on royalty cuts may make it impractical to produce an app.
Layden didn't expect Music Unlimited to immediately become a major contender but noted that there were over 70 million PlayStation Network accounts alone, giving Sony a large potential addressable base. The new service would help avoid a layer of fragmentation at Sony where different divisions have different services.