By Harry McCracken | Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:24 am
Music Unlimited Powered by Qriocity, Sony’s music service, reaches the United States today. It’s launching with six million tracks from all the major music companies, plus independent labels. A $3.99-a-month version lets you listen to music channels themed by genre, decade, and mood, and scan the playlists on your computer and reconstruct them within Sony’s service; a $9.99 version allows full on-demand listening to every song and album in the catalog. Judging from a demo that Sony gave me yesterday, the whole thing has an attractive interface, with nicely-done cover flow-like album art.
What you can’t do just yet is listen to the service when you’re not in front of a TV set or a computer. For now, Music Unlimited is available on the PlayStation 3 and recent Internet-enabled Sony Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players, and there’s a Web-based version for PCs and Macs. Sony has plans for an Android version later in 2011. And Shawn Layden, executive vice president and COO of Sony Network Entertainment, told me that “nothing is off the table” regarding versions for Apple’s iOS and other platforms. (Of course, with Apple’s new rules for iOS content providers, it’s not clear what’s going to happen to non-iTunes music services on the iPhone, period.)
As Jared pointed out back in December, Music Unlimited marches to its own drummer. Every other subscription music service of note is available on mobile devices, and many are available on multiple gadgets from a variety of manufacturers. You can listen to Rhapsody, for instance, on Windows PCs, Macs, iPhones, BlackBerries, Android devices, Sonos music systems, TiVos, receivers from multiple makers, and other hardware.
When I chatted with Layden–who’s worked at Sony since the 1980s, including fifteen years on PlayStation–he seemed to be realistic about what the company’s doing. Rather than taking on other music services head-on right away, he told me, Sony decided to get started in its own comfort zone, building a service for its own devices and assembling a solid collection of music. (The six million tracks it’s starting with do fall short of Napster and Rhapsody’s claims: twelve million and ten million, respectively.) He told me that Music Unlimited will evolve over time; it’ll be interesting to see if it competes with iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, and other services more directly, or remains a Sony-centric outlier.
For now, here are a few images of what the service looks like in its initial incarnation.