Sony's Music Streaming Service: What Were They Thinking?!

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Sony Music Streaming Qriocity
Sony is getting into the cloud-based music streaming game -- but its plan of attack seems almost built for failure.

Sony's new service, called Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity, launches in the U.S. today. And aside from its practically unpronounceable name (CURE-ee-ossity? KWHIR-ossity? Queer-ee-oh-CITY?), there really isn't much noteworthy about it.

Harsh words, I know. But read on, and I think you'll agree.

Sony's Music Streaming Service: Meet Qriocity

First, the basics: Sony's Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity allows you to stream music over the Net without having to purchase individual songs. You pay a flat monthly fee -- $9.99 for the full-featured "premium" plan -- and stream all you want. In order words, it's Rhapsody. Or Napster. Or any of the other subscription-based streaming services already available in the States.

Unlike most of those services, however, Sony's Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity doesn't actually let you stream your tunes anywhere you want. As of now, it's limited only to use on Internet-connected Sony devices -- things like Sony Bravia TVs, Sony Blu-ray players, and Sony Playstation consoles.

In other words, you pay 10 bucks a month to stream songs to a few select Sony products -- and nowhere else. For the same exact price, Rhapsody, Napster, and other existing music services give you unlimited streaming to any device -- your smartphone, your computer, or your home theater components (whether they're Sony-made or not). Most of those services allow you to download tracks so you can listen to music offline, too -- a feature Qriocity also doesn't provide.

Now, Sony's new streaming service does have one element that sounds somewhat intriguing: the ability to sync music you already own into Qriocity and then listen to it from any Sony device. Once you read the footnote attached to this item, though, it becomes a lot less compelling: "Applies to DRM-free music files and to music which has been licensed for playback on Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity." Translation: If you own songs that are available for streaming in Qriocity, you can stream them in Qriocity as part of your already-unlimited streaming plan. Nothing to see here, folks.

One final piece of the puzzle to deconstruct: In addition to its $10-a-month "premium" subscription, Sony's Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity offers a $4-a-month "basic" subscription. For that fee, you gain access to an "infinite ad-free radio station" that lets you create personalized channels based on musical genres. Does that sound oddly familiar? It should; I just described Pandora. Pandora, of course, is free. It also has a premium ad-free option available for $3 a month, a buck less than Sony's clone. And you can use it on a wide range of mobile and home-based devices.

Sony says it plans to expand Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity to Sony-branded portable devices in the future, and then eventually to third-party Android phones and other mobile devices. When that happens, Sony's service will at least be almost on par with the competition, even if it doesn't bring anything significantly different to the table. Until then, it appears to be a scaled-down, limited version of what you can already get elsewhere for the same price or less.

Quite Qrious, indeed.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on both Facebook and Twitter.

This story, "Sony's Music Streaming Service: What Were They Thinking?!" was originally published by PCWorld.

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