Sony has added a streaming music service to its iTunes-challenger Qriocity, betting that people in time will prefer a radio-like experience on the Web to buying tunes from an online store.
Qriocity, launched this year, has offered video-on-demand for months, and adding the music portion makes it a stronger alternative to iTunes for people who own Sony electronics. Introduced Wednesday, the Music Unlimited by Qriocity service will be available initially in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, and the United States added next year.
With Qriocity, Sony takes a page from Apple's playbook by offering entertainment services for its own Internet-enabled products, including Bravia TVs, Blu-ray disc players, home theater systems, and the PlayStation3 video-game console. The service also is available through Sony's Vaio PCs, which can also run iTunes. Sony plans to extend Qriocity to its Android-based mobile devices in the future.
Like Apple and other consumer electronics makers, Sony is hoping to build brand loyalty by offering online services with its products. The Music Unlimited service offers a library of 6 million songs from major record labels, including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI Music, as well as a number of independent labels.
While Apple does not offer music streaming in iTunes, preferring instead to sell individual songs and albums, Music Unlimited is all about streaming through a basic or premium monthly subscription. Prices in the United Kingdom and Ireland are the equivalent of $6.14 and $5.23 a month for the basic service, respectively. The premium service in the United Kingdom and Ireland costs the equivalent of $15.38 and $13.08 a month, respectively.
The basic plan works like an ad-free radio station, with users personalizing channels based on genre, era, mood, and other criteria. Over time, Qriocity adapts to music preferences and offers channels based on what the user likes. The premium service lets people listen to individual songs on demand and create playlists of favorites. The premium service also includes "Top 100" channels that are regularly updated with the latest hits.
Omnifone, a provider of cloud-based music services, powers Qriocity. Sony has contracted with Omnifone to coordinate content licensing, as well as development and delivery of the service.
Sony launched the Qriocity video-on-demand service in April in the United States, expanding it to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom in November. In adding music, Sony is competing with iTunes by betting that streaming music will prove more popular in time than buying-to-own. ITunes is the largest music seller in the United States.
Whether Sony is right remains to be seen. Some experts say that as the number of Internet-enabled portable devices increases, streaming music will eventually surpass buying tunes.