Sony's iTunes Rival: What I Want to See

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Sony plans to launch a new music and video subscription service later today, according to a report published in the Financial Times. The new service, which is expected to compete with Apple's iTunes, is expected to be announced at the IFA show in Berlin -- hours before Apple's own event in San Francisco, at which the company is rumored to announce updates to iTunes.

Details remain scarce about what Sony's service will offer, but the FT report says: "Sources in the media industry told the Financial Times that Sony would use its PlayStation games consoles as the starting point for a new service that users will be able to use across a range of other internet-connected devices. That could include Walkman music players, Vaio computers, Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players and Sony Ericsson mobile phones."

This isn't Sony's first foray into the digital media marketplace: in 2004, the company announced its Connect service, which offered songs for download for 99 cents. The Connect service suffered from buggy software and the public's lack of interest in Sony's digital music players, and was shut down in 2007.

So should we expect a better showing from Sony this time around? I certainly hope so; a little competition for Apple is always a good thing. Here's what I hope to see from Sony's new iTunes rival.

It's All About the Devices

What concerns me most about the FT report is the idea that Sony's new service will be tied to Sony's devices. Sure, this makes sense in some respects -- Sony is looking for a way to attract more users to its connected TVs and Blu-ray players -- but it also will limit the service's appeal. I'd like to see a service that I can run on my Windows computer, my Android smartphone, and my third-party MP3 player.

I think teaming up with Android would be an especially smart move: Android-based phones are becoming more and more popular, yet they lack they kind of connected music-and-video service that iTunes offers on the iPhone. Sure, Android phones offer access to Amazon's MP3 downloads store, but that store doesn't offer a selection of movies and TV shows the way iTunes does.

Ditch the Proprietary Format

Let's hope that Sony has learned from the failure of its Connect music store and the ATRAC format. Sony's past players would only play music in this format, which was not widely supported on other devices. I want to see Sony's new store offer music in a format I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

The Price is Right

The FT report says that Sony is launching a "subscription" service. When the official announcement comes, I hope to hear that the service uses more than just a subscription model; I'd like to see 99 cent (or cheaper!) song downloads, as well as fairly priced movie rentals and downloads.

Selection is Key

Speaking of music and movies, I'd also like to see a wide selection of titles. We all know that a store is only as good as the content it sells, so let's hope Sony can deliver. The FT report says that Sony's service will launch next year, giving the company time to confirm deals with "all the major labels and studios." I like the sound of that.

What about you? What would you like to see from Sony's rumored music store?

This story, "Sony's iTunes Rival: What I Want to See" was originally published by PCWorld.

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