Thursday Sony officially announced the launch of "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" here in the United States, the company's new cloud-based music streaming service. It's expected to go live this afternoon at an unspecified time (PST).
Sony's Music Unlimited originally launched in the UK and Ireland back in December 2010 and then opened its doors to France, Germany, Italy and Spain in January. In addition to the US, the service has also launched in Australia and New Zealand.
Music lovers can now access millions of songs through Internet-connected Sony devices like the PlayStation 3, the PSP handheld gaming system, Sony's 2010 and 2011 models of network-enabled BRAVIA TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, VAIO laptops and non-Sony PCs and laptops. The service will also become available on a wide range of Sony's portable devices, as well as on Sony and third-party Android-based mobile devices and other portable devices.
"As we expand 'Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity' around the globe, it signifies a paradigm shift which redefines the existing music listening experience by revolutionizing music access, discovery, integration and personalization," said Kazuo Hirai, President of Networked Products & Services Group, Sony Corporation. "Through Sony's high quality network-enabled devices, we are focused on delivering dynamic services 'powered by Qriocity' to offer global customers with compelling digital entertainment propositions."
The service arrives in two flavors: Basic for $3.99 per month and Premium for $9.99 per month. The Basic plan serves as an infinite ad-free radio station. Subscribers can listen to numerous personalized channels (categorized by genre, era and even mood) without the need to download and/or manage music files. As for the Premium plan, subscribers can listen to any song on demand, create personal playlists and access premium Top 100 channels.
But with Music Unlimited now live here in the States, what does this mean to Sony's relationship with Apple? Previous reports indicated that the company may eventually pull out iTunes based on Apple's' recent banning of Sony's ebook app and the launch of Music Unlimited here in the States. But Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Michael Ephraim said that the company still needed to offer content in iTunes for now.
''If we do [get mass take up of Music Unlimited] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes?'' Ephraim asked. ''Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that's the format right now."
Sony Network Entertainment COO Shawn Layden backed up Ephraim's statement on Thursday, saying that Sony Music has no plans to abandon iTunes. Layden is directly involved with Music Unlimited and would already know if the company had plans to leave Apple's platform. "Sony Music as I understand it has no intention of withdrawing from iTunes, they're one of our biggest partners in the digital domain."
Layden added that previous indications of Sony Music leaving iTunes was either "taken out of context or the person who spoke them was unclear on the circumstances."
When the service finally opens its doors later today, consumers who have a PlayStation Network account can log right in with their email address and password. Non-PlayStation consumers will need to create a new account.
Access via the PSP handheld is already present on the XMB-- the PlayStation 3 "app" is expected to appear sometime today. To see a video of the service in action, head here.