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Sony expands its iTunes rival across Europe

The cloud-centric "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" streaming service debuts in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Word is that Sony will bring it to the U.S. soon.

Sony's cloud-based Music Unlimited service.
Sony's cloud-based Music Unlimited service. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Designed as a cloud-based alternative to iTunes, Sony's new digital music streaming service has added a few more European countries to its audience, with the U.S. potentially next on the list.

Already available in the U.K. and Ireland, the company's "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" service hit France, Germany, Italy, and Spain this past weekend.

Offering music from Sony's own label as well as from other publishers, Music Unlimited gives consumers the ability to stream songs to a variety of different Sony devices, including Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players, home theater systems, PlayStation consoles, and Vaio PCs. Sony is also looking to launch the service on portable devices, both its own and those from third parties.

Music Unlimited follows Sony's "Video On Demand powered by Qriocity" service, which debuted in the U.S. last April and jumped abroad to Europe in November.

Though Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited give consumers a choice beyond iTunes, they work a bit differently. iTunes is designed to let people buy and store music, video, and other content locally on their devices. Sony's services operate strictly over the Internet with all the content stored in the cloud and streamed to each device on demand. When not connected, mobile devices will cache content so that users can still access their music and videos.

What's the cost? Music Unlimited provides monthly subscription plans, with the basic one selling for 3.99 euros ($5.41) per month and the premium option going for 9.99 euros ($13.55) a month. Both plans let users listen to and create their own personalized music channels. The basic plan limits the number of titles available, while the premium plan lets subscribers listen to every song on demand and create playlists of their favorite tunes. The more that people listen, the more personalized the music channels and selections become.

Next on Sony's to-do list is launching Music Unlimited in the U.S., which is due to happen sometime this quarter, according to Bloomberg. Even as Sony is slowly introducing its cloud-based music and video across the world, it's eyeing an expansion of services that can work under the Qriocity umbrella.

"'Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity' will not only enhance customers' Sony devices by unifying their music experiences and content, but will further open up access, create music discovery opportunities, and spawn new listening possibilities for customers," Kazuo Hirai, president of Networked Products and Services Group for Sony, said in a statement. "We will continue to develop services 'powered by Qriocity,' in order to provide a greater value proposition to our customers around the world."