updated 09:45 pm EDT, Tue August 31, 2010
Sony may use PS3 to launch iTunes-rivaling service
Late tips this evening suggest Sony could temporarily upstage Apple's special event tomorrow with the long-awaited launch of its own media subscription service. Sony's pre-IFA keynote tomorrow morning is believed to be kicking off a music and video subscription service that would start first on the PS3 and PSP but spread to all Sony devices, including its home theater line, PCs, Sony Ericsson phones and Walkman players. The Financial Times sources claimed would be just an early preview and that the plan would go live only in 2011, once content deals had been lined up.
Sony hasn't had a strong track record with self-run media services. It's best known for Connect, a music store it killed three years ago after it failed to gain much traction against Apple's iTunes. Much of the blame was put on its initial insistence on using the self-developed ATRAC format. While Sony was partly following Apple's practice at the time of using its own in-house copy protection, it underestimated the efforts needed to compete with the iPod and couldn't convince customers to lock themselves into its own technology.
It lately has been more cautious and runs a modestly successful movie service on the PlayStation Network along with its fledgling Qriocity store for its TVs and Blu-ray players. Sony has sometimes faced difficulties getting movies and music from other studios as its involvement in both businesses has created worries it might favor its own content over a competitor's.
The move may not have much impact on Apple, whose major plans could include 99-cent TV rentals for some networks as well as better iTunes music discovery that the Times believed might include 90-second audio samples. Facebook and Twitter sharing might also improve in the mix, which may center on the iTV upgrade to the Apple TV. The combined plans could cement a grip on digital media that has been strong enough to give Apple 28 percent of all US music and in many cases keep it out front as the largest paid Internet video provider.