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Sony launches streaming music service to take on Apple's iTunes

Sony on Wednesday launched a new streaming music subscription service which it hopes will take on Apple's iTunes by offering a different approach to digital music sales.

"Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" is a cloud-based digital music service. Unlike iTunes, users do not purchase and download tracks. Instead, they stream them.

The service is not available on portable devices, meaning users can't take their music on the go. The service debuted Wednesday in Ireland and the U.K., and will launch in the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and New Zealand in 2011.

Kazuo Hirai, executive vice president of Sony, said the initial focus of the product is to enhance the appeal of Sony products versus competitors like Apple and Microsoft, according to The Associated Press. But he said "over time" the service would need to "stand on its own."

"We realized if we were playing catch-up with the same (iTunes) model, it would be difficult to appear to users," Hirai said.

The Music Unlimited service allows users to play music from a variety of Internet-connected Sony devices such as Bravia TVs, Blu-ray disc players, and the PlayStation 3 gaming console.

"As we continue to expand Qriocity globally, these services 'powered by Qriocity' offer a single ID log-in and wallet solution, and empower users to easily consume content including music and video across a growing number of integrated devices," said Hirai said in a press release. "Seamless accessibility to content through these fresh user experiences will enrich Sony's network service offerings and continually add value to the unique aspects of Sony's network-enabled products."

Sony announced its plans to take on iTunes in November, when the endeavor was then tentatively named the "Sony Online Service." The company allegedly plans, at some point in the future, to allow independent software developers to create applications for the service, much like Apple's iPhone App Store.

Sony competes with Apple in a number of markets, including MP3 players, portable games, computers and living room media players, but the company has struggled in many of its businesses of late. Last year, Sony lost $2.6 billion.