Fast Company

Sony Launches Qriocity, Cloud-based Music Service to Rival Apple, iTunes

Talk about poor timing. Just as Apple is gearing up for its much-anticipated, music industry-shaking announcement (Streaming? Social iTunes? iPod Nano Touch?), Sony decided to launch its rival to iTunes.

Announced today at Berlin's IFA technology show, Sony unveiled its new digital media service on Qriocity (pronounced "curiosity" -- who knew?), an on-demand video and music service. Available by the year's end, Qriocity will include "Music Unlimited," a cloud-based digital music service that will give users access to millions of songs stored and synced through the cloud. Price points have yet to be revealed, but it's clear this service is aimed at both Apple and Netflix.

Similar to how Apple markets its family of products through iTunes (iPods, iPhones, iPads, iMacs), Qriocity will be available across a slew of Internet-connected Sony devices (PlayStation 3, Walkman players, Ericsson phones, Vaio computers). And while Sony spent most of the conference touting its video on-demand service, which was first introduced in January and is available on Bravia Internet devices, we're more interested in its cloud-based music service.

Engadget reports the service will eventually be available to third-parties as well, though it's unclear when or how this will work. Are other record labels such as Warner Music Group and Universal on-board? How much will the service cost? How does it affect the company's relationship with iTunes? Is this why Apple is not expected to announce a cloud-based service of its own?

Of course, it's not the first time Sony has attempted to enter the digital media market. In 2004, the company launched Connect, an online music store that lets users purchase "music online for download to a wide variety of Sony® portable electronic devices." Sounds familiar, right? By 2007, however, Sony phased out Connect, and soon customers were greeted (and are still greeted) with the following message when visiting the store:

With such a dominant player as Apple in the music industry, consumers should be skeptical of any company trying to gain market share, especially with Sony's failed-Connect project in its rearview.  However, launching a cloud-based music service is an exciting turn--one that not even Apple is expected to make in the near future.

Since the service will only be available on Sony device, the question is whether consumers will show the same brand loyalty to Sony as Apple. Apple has an incredibly tight-knit family of products: iPads, iPods, iPhones). Are Sony's products more amorphus? That is, do customers use PlayStation 3s, Walkmans, Sony Ericcsons and Vaios in the same way?

Soon they might, given Sony's entrance into cloud-based media. And that's not to mention a big leg-up for Sony: its recording and publishing subsidiaries Sony BMG and Sony Music Entertainment, which might give this new service the leverage it needs to give Apple a run for its money. 

Coming mere hours before Apple's music press conference in California, many expected that even a sneeze from Steve Jobs would overshadow Sony's announcement. However, it seems the new service will garner enough attention.

After all, aren't we all a little qrioious to see how Qriocity does?

[Images via Engadget]

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