Sony rolls out rival to iTunes

Woman walks below logo for IFA The IFA consumer electronics fair opens its doors on Friday

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Sony has launched a new music and video download service as it gears up to challenge Apple's iTunes.

The announcement, made at the IFA technology fair in Berlin, was timed to coincide with an Apple media event in the US.

The cloud-based service will be available on PlayStation 3s, Bravia TVs, Blu-Ray players and Sony's personal computers.

Initially it will offer movies. Music will be added at the end of the year.

Sony's online services platform Qriocity has offered video-on-demand in the US since April this year but will now be available in Europe.

The Music Unlimited service, due at the end of the year, will give users access to millions of songs.

"Via Qriocity, Sony will deliver a variety of digital entertainment content and services... including video, music, game applications and e-books over time," said Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe.

It is not the first time that Sony has tried to break into the digital music market.

In 2004 it launched an online music download service in the US, called Connect.

It did not prove popular with consumers and Sony pulled the plug on it in 2007.

Commenting on the new service, Forrester analyst Mark Mulligan said it was a "necessary strategic move".

"It has done a wise thing launching a multi-media rather than just a music service. Apple has the glue of iTunes but Sony doesn't have this and it has recognised the need to join the dots between all its disparate devices," he said.

In Australia and New Zealand, Sony has been trialling another music service called bandit.fm, which allows users to stream unlimited music for a fixed cost.

It is rumoured that Amazon is also about to enter the movie and music streaming fray, with its own download service.

Details of Sony's latest service and the costs will be announced later.

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