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Sony pulls plug on digital musicstore

Connect site, ATRAC format abandoned

After three unsuccessful years, Sony is finally giving up on its Connect digital musicstore and the proprietary format that drove it.

News came Thursday as Sony unveiled a new line of Walkman digital music players. Instead of working with Sony’s proprietary ATRAC format, which was only available from Connect, the players are compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Media, the code used for tracks from major labels on every digital musicstore except iTunes.

Since launching in 2004, Connect has failed to gain any traction against the market dominating iTunes or even its smaller competitors such as eMusic, Rhapsody and Napster. Poor sales for Walkman and low interest in Connect formed a negative loop that was essentially the mirror image of what happened at Apple, where strong iPod sales drove music downloads on iTunes and vice versa.

Sony had previously said it would add video downloads to Connect, but that never happened. Instead, Sony’s vidgame division is currently working on a service that will power movie and TV downloads for the Playstation 3 and PSP.

Connect is expected to phase out music downloads in the U.S. and Europe by next March. Website will continue to offer e-book downloads for the Sony Reader, however.

Sony’s new Walkman products will be the first in the U.S. that play video. They come almost two years after Apple first launched its video iPod. Sony Pictures is providing some movie trailers and other video content that can be downloaded to the Walkman from SonyStyle.com, the conglom’s e-commerce site.

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