Application for streaming service unveiled in first quarter

Sony is bringing Music Unlimited to Apple’s devices.

The company will unveil an application for the streaming music service sometime in the first quarter of the year, officials revealed at a roundtable discussion with reporters at CES in Las Vegas.

The step is a big one for Sony, as it has been trying to compete with Apple on its own devices as well as Android platforms. It also put the company into an increasingly crowded field on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, as services like Spotify, iHeartRadio and Rhapsody all have established footprints there.

The free Music Unlimited app will do more than allow users to play music from the Music Unlimited catalog. Users will also be able to save cached versions of their playlists to enjoy when offline.

“We have to compete vigorously with Spotify and lots of services,” said Tim Schaaff, president of Sony Network Entertainment. “I heard from one of the record industry guys that they licensed their music to more than 250 services last year. Yes, we are going to compete with these guys. (Apple’s) iOS is one way to do that.”

To usher in the application, Sony has once again boosted the number of songs in its catalog. At its CES press conference Monday, Sony pinned the number of available songs at 12 million, but it has since closed another deal with CD Baby, bringing the total to 15 million.

Schaaff said the Music Unlimited service currently has 1 million active users — those who are in a trial or paid mode. It’s hoping to increase that number not only with the iOS app, but by including Music Unlimited on the PlayStation Vita during its U.S. launch.

As Schaaff notes, though, the land grab for users is still a very fierce battle.

“We’re in the early stages of this cloud-based service,” he said. “That’s the state of the industry right now … The reality is we’re trying to build a marketplace around these subscription models and that’s going to take some time and the effort of putting skin in the game. … We feel pretty confident that Sony is in this for the long run.”

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