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Sony opts for open audio format

By switching audio file formats, Sony seems to be acknowledging Apple's dominance in digital music, say analysts.

Sony is moving to make its music management software compatible with Apple Computer's audio file format in the latest evidence of Apple's dominance in digital music.

The behemoth Japanese conglomerate, which once controlled the portable music market, announced Tuesday that the company's data compression technology would be compatible with a number of rival formats, including Apple's format of choice, AAC.

In the past, Sony has fiercely held to its own Atrac system. By switching to a technology that supports AAC, Sony appears to be acknowledging Apple's dominance in the digital music playing market, say analysts.

Sony's new management system will allow iPod users to swap some of their music to a Sony Walkman, but only songs they ripped from CDs.

Music downloaded from Apple's iTunes music store is prevented from playing on non-Apple devices by Apple's digital rights management technology.

"That's a big change for Sony," said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research. "But it's not surprising. Competitors keep trying to stop Apple, but the company's market share just continues to grow."

Calls to Sony were not returned Wednesday.