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Sony's 2012 Changes Start With Renaming PSN

Over the weekend, Sony distributed an email regarding changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy related to the PlayStation Network. Starting Tuesday, February 7, the network we've come to know and love on the PlayStation 3 and PSP will no longer be called PlayStation Network, but will reside under the Sony Entertainment Network label instead.

"The rebranding of PlayStation Network accounts to Sony Entertainment Network accounts is a change in name only," Sony reports. "Your username or password will not change, nor are we asking you to change them. On Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita systems, this rebranding will occur in connection with software updates for these devices."

This change will not be applied to the PSP system at this time, Sony added, indicating that the older handheld -- and possibly the PSPgo -- will not be supported on the Sony Entertainment Network.

As the company points out, the transition is based on Sony's goal to provide one network to reside over all of its devices -- whether it's a gaming console, smartphone or Smart TV -- to provide video, music, gaming and other multimedia content. Sony revealed its plans to merge all three platforms (video/audio/gaming) into one solid network back in 2010, and began the transition in September 2011 by merging its two Qriocity on-demand networks into Sony Entertainment Network, rebranding them to Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited.

The change arrives as Sony moves to rebuild and repair its overall image, starting with the appointment of former PlayStation boss Kazuo Hirai who takes over as President and Chief Executive Officer on April 1. Last week he said it was time to turn away from past successes and the company's traditional methods, and to focus on the user experience. He also said Sony needed to find new business areas -- including medical -- and to narrow its portfolio.

"Sony cannot continue walking on the same path,” Hirai said on Thursday. "It’s not just about the hardware product, it’s about the user experience."

SEN's subscription-based Music Unlimited arm is a step in the right direction. Rather than locking the service to Sony hardware, the company offers access to Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform, thus reaching a larger consumer base. Merging its gaming platform and dropping the PlayStation branding could mean that Sony plans to reach out to consumers outside the PlayStation consoles via smartphones, Smart TVs and Windows PC.

So far we still haven't seen the PlayStation Suite locally in the States, and at this point, it may enter the market under the SEN name and offer both PlayStation classics and the promised exclusive titles for Android, iOS and compatible HDTVs. But Sony faces stiff competition with the likes of LG and Google who will offer streaming game services Gaikai and OnLive in their 2012 Smart TVs. Sony may be pushed to launch a similar service to better compete in the Smart TV market.