In late 2010, Sony took the wraps off of Music Unlimited, a subscription-based streaming music service that lets users stream their favorite songs on a wide variety of Sony devices, from Bravia TVs, Sony VAIO laptops, the PS3, and naturally, a slew of Sony portable devices. In addition to unlimited streaming, Music Unlimited also offers users, for a higher buy-in point, a music suggestion service akin to Pandora (which, by the way, is free).
Recently, Sony CEO Michael Ephraim was in Australia to herald in the launch of Music Unlimited in the land down under. While there, Ephraim took some time to talk to The Age and didn’t mince words as he opined about Apple’s stranglehold on the music industry and Sony’s desire to wrest itself from the confines of iTunes should its Music Unlimited initiative prove successful.
“If we do [get mass take up] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes?” Ephraim asked rhetorically. ”Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that’s the format right now.
”Publishers are being held to ransom by Apple and they are looking for other delivery systems, and we are waiting to see what the next three to five years will hold.”
Of course taking on the iTunes behemoth is a lot easier said than done. To date, subscription services have failed to put any discernible dent in Apple’s pay-per-song model. Moreover, iTunes currently houses over 14 million songs while Music Unlimited carries about 6 million songs. Further, how many non-techie folks are even aware that Music Unlimited exists? Not to mention, with iTunes as big as it is, removing content from Apple’s media hub may end up doing more harm than good.
In any event, music isn’t the only arena where Sony is looking to make strides and potentially leave Apple out of the equation. Later this year Sony plans to launch a new gaming initiative dubbed PlayStation Suite that will let smartphone users download and play original PlayStation titles.
Mr Ephraim said PlayStation Suite was unlikely to operate on Apple’s iPhone. ”We are not as closed as Apple is. It’s the first time in the gaming industry it’s non-proprietary. With the proliferation of devices [PlayStation Suite] could be an indication of where things are going.”
Could be, but probably, most likely, won’t be.
Of course, Ephraim’s comments may likely be a knee-jerk reaction to Apple’s recent decision to remove a Sony e-book reader from the iTunes App Store for violating Apple’s developer guidelines.