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Sony will Connect online

Service to charge 99 cents a song or $9.99 per album

Sony’s U.S. unit said it is testing a new music download service called Connect, becoming the second company to announce such a service on Wednesday.

Service, run by a subsidiary called Sony Connect, will charge 99¢ a song or $9.99 for most albums, Sony Corp. of America said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Sony will introduce the service in phases, with a series of trials with a limited number of users before it’s officially released in the spring, the company said in a statement. Customers will have a library of about half a million songs to choose from.

Service will compete with Apple Computer’s iTunes store, which Apple said Tuesday has sold more than 30 million songs since it opened last April. RealNetworks, whose software enables computers to get news, audio and video on the Internet, said earlier Wednesday it will begin selling digital copies of songs over the Web by the end of this month.

Roxio said Wednesday it will start selling software to download music at Target stores under the Napster brand name. The Santa Clara-based company began selling music on its Napster service on Oct. 29, and by Nov. 7, Roxio said it had sold 300,000 songs and that the unit would have sales of $5 million in the quarter ended last month.

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