Sony steps up online war with Apple and Microsoft

Apple's iTunes store should not be affected by the Sony/ Gracenote deal - at least, in the short term...

Sony bought up digital media company Gracenote Inc for around $260 million (£130m) this week, which effectively means the company now owns the software that allows applications such as Apple’s iTunes to read the information from compact discs.

Founded in 1998, Gracenote’s CD identification technology has become the industry standard. The full significance of this week’s Sony deal will not be seen till later this year.

"Gracenote is a global leader in technology and services for digital media identification, enrichment, and recommendation, and these capabilities will be essential to the next wave of innovation in content, services, and consumer electronics," said Tim Schaaff, SCA senior vice president, Software (formerly VP of Interactive Media at Apple).

"Sony sees tremendous growth potential in developing Gracenote as a separately run business unit, and by broadly embracing Gracenote’s platforms, Sony expects to significantly enhance and accelerate its own digital content, service, and device initiatives."

iTunes affected?

Sony’s press release informs us that "Gracenote’s existing business will continue to operate separately" but the immediate question, for Apple fans, is how might this affect Apple’s iTunes?

What's the deal between Apple and Gracenote? Will Sony now be in a position to charge them more for using Gracenote?

"Apple does not comment on commercial relationships of this nature," we were promptly informed by an Apple spokesperson when we posed this question to them earlier.

MacFormat’s Chris Phin assures TechRadar that: "As far as regular users are concerned, this is unlikely to have any tangible effect.

"Unless Sony decides to get very churlish – and there may be a business argument for that – it still allows Gracenote as a wholly-owned subsidiary to grant access to its database to Apple for iTunes. Slot a CD into your PC or Mac, and iTunes will still grab the track names."

Major online assault

"Sony is getting set to roll out a major assault on Apple's domination of the download content market and Microsoft's Xbox live service," claims Smarthouse’s David Richards.

Richards adds: "They are also set to introduce a significantly upgraded PS3 with new software that allows users to access games movies and music and push them to other devices over a wireless network."

Home delays

Speaking about the recent delay of PS3 Home, the online service central to the future of Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation strategy, SCE president Kazuo Hirai has recently admitted that: Sony "understand[s] that we are asking PS3 and prospective PS3 users to wait a bit longer, but we have come to the conclusion that we need more time to refine the service to ensure a more focused gaming entertainment experience than what it is today."

"Our overarching objective is to provide users with new gaming experiences that are available only on PlayStation Home. Spending more time on the development and on the Closed Beta testing reaffirms our commitment to bringing a quality service, maintaining the PlayStation tradition."

Adam Hartley