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Thursday, February 17, 2011, 12:10 pm PT (03:10 pm ET)

Sony executive says company has no plans to abandon Apple's iTunes

Sony has backed off earlier suggestions that the company is hoping to eventually pull its content from iTunes in the event that a competing service, such as its own Music Unlimited, becomes a viable alternative.

"Sony Music as I understand it has no intention of withdrawing from iTunes," Sony Network Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Shawn Layden said, according to Silicon Alley Insider. "They're one of our biggest partners in the digital domain. I think those words were either taken out of context or the person who spoke them was unclear on the circumstances."

The words Layden referred to came from an interview last week, in which Michael Ephraim, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment, told an Australian newspaper that he hoped his company would not need to sell music on iTunes in the future. Ephraim questioned whether Sony would need to partner with Apple to sell music through iTunes if its new Music Unlimited service, which debuted in late 2010, became successful enough.

Sony has apparently backed off its comments about iTunes as the company has just launched its "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity" service in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Thursday's opening gives three new countries the opportunity to try the digital music service, which gives subscribers the ability to access a catalogue of millions of songs from major record labels including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI music.

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. The service is also available on Sony's Vaio line and other personal computers.

"As we expand 'Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity' around the globe, it signifies a paradigm shift which redefines the existing music listening experience by revolutionizing music access, discovery, integration and personalization," said Kazuo Hirai, president of Networked Products & Services Group, Sony Corporation. "Through Sony's high quality network-enabled devices, we are focused on delivering dynamic services 'powered by Qriocity' to offer global customers with compelling digital entertainment propositions."

Music Unlimited has basic plans for $3.99 U.S., $4.99 Australia, and $5.99 New Zealand. The basic plan works as an infinite ad-free radio station and allows subscribers to listen to dozens of personalized channels categorized by genre, era and mood without the need to download or manage music files.

Premium plans cost $9.99 per month U.S., $12.99 Australia and $13.99 New Zealand. It allows users to listen in full to every song on demand, create personal playlists of favorites, and gain access to premium top 100 channels which are regularly updated with the latest hits. The service also adapts to users' music preferences and constantly tailors channels to offer a compatible lineup.