Sony has launched a new music-streaming service in Australia today, which offers users access to up to 6 million tracks without the need for downloads.
The Music Unlimited service will be available in two options: the Basic package (AU$4.99/month), which enables users to access up to 100 different channels of music; and the Premium (AU$12.99/month), which allows users to listen to individual tracks and playlists from the whole library plus access to the streaming channels. Pricing is the same across Australia and New Zealand.
The service is accessible from Bravia televisions, Blu-ray players, PlayStation 3 consoles, PCs via Qriocity, and home theatre systems; mobiles and portable devices such as the PSP are still in the pipeline.
Sony Computer managing director Michael Ephraim said the service has the support of all the major record labels and some independents as well.
"Clearly, it's the intention to get all the music in the world almost on the service, so you just can't beat the range," Ephraim said.
He claimed that the Music Unlimited plans were more economical than the Apple iTunes service.
"You download a track on iTunes — a buck 69 — six tracks later you've spent 10 bucks. With this service in a month you can listen to maybe a thousand tracks," Ephraim said.
The service offers the ability to sync a user's personal library to "the cloud", enabling listening on the go without the need to download them onto a new device.
The Music Unlimited service is part of Sony's Qriocity platform, which will expand in the near future to include other digital content including movies and ebooks with access from a single account. It also includes PlayStation Network accounts.
Sony's technology communications manager Paul Colley said that network services such as Music Unlimited will be the "killer app" of 2011.
"In the next 12 months there'll be over a million connected devices in households from Sony alone," Colley said.
"We're really focussed on making sure, through Sony devices — whether it be a PlayStation 3 or a Bravia or a home theatre system — that you get access to the best content that you can," he added.
Colley refused to comment on the recent demise of Nokia's Comes With Music service, but said streaming services were popular.
"I think the key thing about Music Unlimited and Qriocity in general is it's very clear if you look at consumer trends and consumer habits that cloud-based service — wanting it now, when I want it, where I want it — is absolutely where consumer behaviour is moving. The Qriocity service is ready and able to take advantage of that trend," he said.
The service will make use of Dolby's Pulse technology, based on AAC, to deliver the music, and according to Paul Colley it is "four times more efficient than any codec we've been using to date".
Ephraim said while there weren't currently any deals in place to provide the content unmetered via ISPs, he said the file sizes were relatively small and "not an issue".
"You don't go to JB and buy a TV and ask 'what's the electricity plan?' because that's just a given, and that's where broadband is going — it's a utility," he said.