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Sony to unplug Connect digital music service

Tacit admission of defeat

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IFA 07 Sony will next year kill off its Connect digital music download service, Register Hardware has learned. Its Walkman products will instead use Windows Media technology, the consumer electronics giant told its customers today.

Sony's decision is a tacit admission that the company has failed to match the success enjoyed by Apple's iTunes Music Store, and marks the Japanese giant's second major climbdown in the digital music player business.

Just over three years ago, in June 2004, Sony caved in to consumer demand and began equipping its digital music players with MP3 support, having favoured only its own, ATRAC audio format up to that point. Connect, however, continued to offer songs for download using the proprietary Sony music encoding technology.

Not for much longer, though. The North American and European Connect online stores close their virtual doors sometime after March 2008, Sony said. March is the final month of the company's current financial year, and it probably wants to get that out of the way before knocking Connect on the head. Beyond that, it didn't say when exactly each region's service will close.

Connect - once described as an "embarrasment" by the Washington Post - was launched in the US in May 2004, a year after Apple opened the iTunes Music Store.

Today it warned Connect customers to use up any of the service's money-off vouchers by that date.

No specific reason was given for the move, stating only "the decision to embrace a more open platform will enable us to provide [users] with a better music enjoyment experience". Customers will be pointed to the "very wide range of third-party services" operating today.

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