Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Sony’s Music Service Comes to the U.S., Still Won’t Work on the Go

There are a bunch of music subscription services in the U.S., all of which offer more or less the same thing at the same price.

And now there’s Sony. Which is offering less at the same price.

Sony is rolling out its (bear with me) “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” service today, and it’s a lot like MOG, Rhaposdy and other competitors: It sells access to all the music you want, whenever you want to hear it, for $10 a month.

But unlike its competition, Sony’s service won’t let you take the music with you on your iPod or mobile phone.

Which, as I’ve noted before, is pretty much the whole point of these things.

What’s Sony thinking? I chatted with Sony Network Entertainment head Tim Schaaff about it, and you can see our entire discussion below. Short version: Sony says it will make its music portable sooner than later; Sony thinks people will enjoy listening to the music on their TVs, controlled by their PlayStation 3s; and Sony will advertise the heck out of this thing.

There’s also an interesting backstory about why Sony isn’t launching with mobile. Or at least I’m sure there has to be. Right? But Schaaf won’t give that one up.

When Sony does go mobile, expect to see it on Android first. The company has been explicit about its interest in working with Google’s mobile platform, and hasn’t mentioned Apple and its iOS platform in its press materials. But I did get Schaaff to concede that, yes, Sony plans on working with Apple, too.

Except now that Apple’s new subscription terms seem to make it impossible for streaming music services to work in their present incarnation–Apple wants 30 percent of a low-margin product with high variable costs–it may be that none of Sony’s competitors will end up working on iPhones and iPods. Which would end up dramatically reducing the amount of ground Sony will have to make up.

Schaaff, by the way, should be an interesting person to talk to about Apple and its head-scratching subscription fiat. Prior to joining Sony in 2005, he had spent 14 years at Apple, and was intimately involved in the company’s media products.

But Schaaff is too politic to let me bait him into saying much about Apple’s moves, other than allowing that “it seems a little aggressive.” And then he can’t help himself: “Sounds like a good thing for Android.”