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Sony's plan to dominate e-commerce took a curious step forward today, as the company's Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) division announced a scheme to entice buyers online through kiosks to be located in over 9000 Japanese retail outlets from convenience stores to music shops. According to Reuters, SCE has signed 11 companies, most notably Seven-Eleven, Japanese video and music chain Tsutaya, owned by the Culture Convenience Club Company, and video games wholesaler DigiCube, but also including games software companies like Namco and CapCom. Seven-Eleven operates around 8000 convenience stores throughout Japan -- Tsutaya has some 970 outlets. The in-store kiosks will hook users up to Sony's recently announced PlayStation.com e-commerce site. PlayStation.com is set to go live next month to sell existing PlaySation titles plus game for the PlayStation 2, which will also debut next month. Eventually, the site will offer albums and DVD movies. All 11 companies will take a combined 20 per cent stake in PlayStation.com. The idea behind the scheme is that buyers will be able to order software online, and collect it from a local store, presumably paying for the their games at collection time rather than in advance by credit card as is typically the case with e-commerce ventures. It's a canny move that allows retail outlets to work alongside online operations, traditionally seen by many retailers as enemy number one, especially by music and movie stores who realise that since what they are selling is fundamentally just binary bits, sooner or later those bits will be sold to the customer direct via high-speed Net connections. Certainly, that's Sony's view of the future of digital media sales. In the meantime, the deal allows the likes of Tsutaya to explore new approaches to retail where stores cease to hold physical stock, but act as either collection and payment points or even individual production centres, churning out CDs, DVDs and even books to order after downloading their content from centralised databases. ® Related Story 2m PlayStation 2s to ship in first 2 days -- Sony exec Sony goes direct in Japan with online Vaio store

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