Sony considering pulling out of iTunes altogether?

A report from Australian publication The Age says Sony is thinking about removing all of its music and video games from iTunes as it expands its own download service.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read
Music Unlimited: The service that will cause Sony to pull out of iTunes?
Music Unlimited: The service that will cause Sony to pull out of iTunes? Stephen Shankland/CNET

It might not be long before Sony turns its back on iTunes, if a new report from Australia's The Age proves to be accurate.

According to the publication, Sony is working hard on on getting its Music Unlimited streaming service to catch on with customers. Michael Ephraim, head of Sony Computer Entertainment in Australia, said that as the service is rolled out around the world and it starts to gain popularity, it might be time for Sony to think twice about its partnership with Apple and iTunes.

"If we do [get mass take up] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes?'' Ephraim asked during his interview with The Age. ''Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that's the format right now."

He then delivered some fighting words, telling the publication that "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."

Sony first announced Music Unlimited back in September. In December, the company launched the offering in the U.K. and Ireland with 6 million songs available to stream. It partnered with Universal, Warner Music Group, and EMI, in addition to delivering Sony Music Entertainment content on the service. It also includes tracks from independent labels.

Music Unlimited costs about $6 per month for basic service and about $15 for premium service. Like Pandora, Music Unlimited lets users tailor their listening by indicating whether they like a song or not. However, unlike Pandora's free version, there are no ads in Music Unlimited. Sony's service also allows for an unlimited number of skips.

Sony's eventual goal with Music Unlimited is to bring the streaming tracks to a slew of devices. Currently, the service works with the company's line of 2010 HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and PlayStation 3, among other products.

Ephraim called Music Unlimited a "new technology" in his interview with The Age. And perhaps most importantly, he told the publication, it gives customers more "freedom," which stands in stark contrast, he says, to Apple.

That sentiment was echoed recently by another Sony executive over a battle between the companies and e-books.

Late last month, Apple rejected a Sony application from gaining access to its App Store that would have allowed customers to buy e-books through Sony's Reader Store. Apple said at the time that it requires developers to give customers the option to buy e-books "from within the app," a claim that Sony took issue with.

"It's the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market," Sony digital reading division President Steve Haber told The New York Times after the rejection. "We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store."

However, when it comes to gaming, Sony isn't so willing to share its content with Apple.

Later this year, Sony will be launching the PlayStation Suite, an offering that will allow Android-based devices to play older PlayStation games. In his interview with The Age, Ephraim said that PlayStation Suite was another effort on Sony's part to start "opening up." Ephraim then took the opportunity to fire another shot over Apple's bow.

"We're not as closed as Apple is," Ephraim said in the interview. "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."

Based on Ephraim's strong words, those "things" seem to be heading toward a full-fledged war between Sony and Apple.

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.