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Thursday, November 19, 2009, 12:30 pm PT (03:30 pm ET)

Sony announces iTunes competitor for music, movies, books

Sony on Thursday revealed it intends to launch an online store to sell music, movies and books, called Sony Online Service, designed to compete with Apple's iTunes.

According to BusinessWeek, the technology giant announced the tentatively named service during a management strategy meeting in Tokyo. It noted that the store is likely to "bear some similarities" to iTunes, as the company attempts to tie it to some of its most popular consumer electronics.

Sony reportedly plans to base its iTunes-like service on the existing PlayStation Network, a free online community that allows gamers to compete and communicate with one another, as well as purchase content. PSN currently has 33 million registered users worldwide.

"Sony will try to differentiate its service from iTunes," the report said. "One example: Users will be able to upload videos shot on camcorders, save photos taken with digital cameras, and post other digital content to their personal online accounts. That's how Google's suite of Net-based services (such as YouTube video-sharing and Picasso photo site) works. At some point down the road, Sony would consider letting independent software developers create applications for the service, much the way Apple does for its iPhone."

Sony competes with Apple in a number of markets, including MP3 players, portable games, computers and living room media players. Sony's announcement comes as the company has faced a number of struggles across its many businesses. Last year, the company lost $2.6 billion.

Sony has recently changed its focus to adopt a concrete software strategy. Under the direction of CEO and Chairman Howard Stringer, the company has attempted to shift away from its low-margin hardware business.

In 2005, Sony lured Apple executive Tim Schaaff away from the Cupertino, Calif., company. He was named Sony's senior vice president of software development.

Sony recently went download-only for software on its new PSPgo, a revised version of the PlayStation Portable handheld gaming platform. Much like Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch, the system offers a library of games that can be instantly purchased and downloaded.