Okay, Everybody Calm Down About Sony and iTunes

By  |  Friday, February 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I’m seeing a lot of frantic stories in the tech blogosphere today over some comments a Sony executive made about iTunes.

Speaking to The Age, Sony Computer Entertainment Australia Chief Executive Michal Ephraim said his company would like to get away from iTunes, if only it could move to a credible alternative, such as the Sony Music subscription service that’s rolling out now.

But thanks to some eye-catching headlines (including The Age’s own), Ephraim’s remarks got twisted into a threat to abandon the most popular music download service in the world. You need only look at the quotes to see that’s not the case.

Here’s what Ephraim said:

“If we do [get mass take up] then does Sony Music need to provide content to iTunes? Currently we do. We have to provide it to iTunes as that’s the format right now.”

In other words, Sony realizes that it’s powerless to leave iTunes for as long as digital downloads are the main way that people consume music.

Ephraim continues:

“Publishers are being held to ransom by Apple and they are looking for other delivery systems, and we are waiting to see what the next three to five years will hold.”

So not only does Sony understand that it needs subscription music to take off before it can even consider leaving iTunes, it also recognizes that the transition isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future.

The idea that Sony would just pack up all its music and leave makes for an intriguing narrative; Apple just dissed Sony big time by rejecting Sony’s eReader application from the iOS App Store. But there’s no retaliation going on here. Sony simply hopes that new business models will shake up the digital music market so that it’s no longer dependent on Apple for survival. Isn’t that what every iTunes publisher wants?

One more thing: If Sony was seriously going to abandon iTunes, I think we’d be hearing about it from Sony Music Entertainment, the record label, not the head of the company’s gaming division in Australia.

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