Sony planning new online store

Taking a page from Apple's iTunes, Sony is devising an online store offering music, movies, books, and other downloadable content for its various devices.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Sony is planning a new online store a la Apple's iTunes, but with a few twists.

Announced at a strategy meeting in Tokyo on Thursday, the new service will hawk music, movies, books, and other downloadable content geared for its various electronics, including TVs, mobile phones, music players, and computers.

The service, which Sony aims to launch next year, will link the company's devices and digital content that it produces--setting it apart from other online stores.

"That's the kind of combination that I think is not seen anywhere else," Kazuo Hirai, Sony executive vice president for networked products and services, said in an interview with the Associated Press. "That I think is where our core competence lies, and that's a differentiator for Sony."

Hirai also spoke about the new service with BusinessWeek, saying that it won't just sell products but also tap into social networking by letting people upload their own photos or videos and connect with each other.

"It's not just access content, stream it, and enjoy," Hirai told BusinessWeek. "What are your friends watching right now? There's a screen that says all the programming that's available. It highlights all the things that your friends are watching, for example. It's a community experience."

Called the Sony Online Service for now, it will model itself after the company's successful PlayStation Network, a free service that has captured 33 million registered users who download movies, access social networks, and grab games for the PS3 and portable PSP console. Hirai said that gamers will be able to access the new online service directly through their PlayStation Network accounts.

Of course, Sony has been down this road before in 2005 with its late Sony Connect music service. The aborted iTunes clone was done in by internal politics and a failure to connect with consumers, forcing the company to shut it down in 2007.

But with a new, more cohesive management team put in place by CEO and president Howard Stringer, Sony is hoping to avoid the in-fighting that helped kill Connect.

Sony needs a shot in the arm at this point. Though the company pioneered the portable music concept 30 years ago with its Walkman, it has struggled to compete in the Digital Age. Continuing a string of quarterly losses, Sony took a $292 million net loss in its recent second quarter. Despite cost cuts and layoffs, the company is projecting a total loss of $1.3 billion for the full fiscal year.