We’ve officially entered the silly season of pre-CES rumors, so take this with a grain of salt, but the Wall Street Journal reports Sony has approached “several big media companies” about distributing their channels over the internet. This comes on the heels of its report on comments by CEO Howard Stringer about significant R&D efforts going into a “different kind of TV”, and the four screen strategy Sony would like to implement. According to the report, Sony’s idea is to offer small bundles of channels over the internet to its TVs, Blu-ray players, and the PS3. Still, cutting deals with companies like CBS, that doesn’t want to jeopardize its cable and satellite TV-based revenue, could be difficult. As for the competition, similar rumors about Microsoft turned into an effort that mostly works with partners like Comcast, U-verse, and FiOS, while Google is also pursuing a route of adding to, but not necessarily replacing, cable TV. Sony has positioned itself well, adding IPTV services including sports to the PS3 and live TV tuning capability, and its tested the waters of going over the top before, but so far whether it will actually pursue this new plan is unknown.
Sony didn’t make a big to do about the arrival of its Music Unlimited service on Android — perhaps it’s the fact that the market for streaming music on mobile devices is getting a bit crowded these days, with recent arrivals from Apple, Google, and Amazon. Or maybe it’s that the mention of Qriocity, the service that powers the offering, is still likely to leave a bad taste in the mouths of lots of folks, after the whole, well, you know. Whatever the case may be, the app is now available as a free download for those with Google’s dessert-based operating system on their handsets, plus either the $4 a month basic or $10 a month premium plan.
Can it be happening? Is Sony’s security nightmare finally over? Seems to be. On Tuesday, Sony promised full restoration of its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services in the Americas, Europe, and Asia (excluding Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea) by the end of the week. Now Sony is proclaiming that today is the day for full restoration with details of its “welcome back” package to be announced from each region. The PlayStation Store is already up with a “huge lineup” of new games, demos, add-ons, themes, avatars, and videos along with an updated Playstation Plus. Hey, look on the bright side Sony, even though you’ve lost the confidence of millions of your customers, at least now they’re aware of your Qriocity service.
Remember the recent PlayStation Network outage? You know the one, right? It started in late-April and lasted up through this weekend’s phased restoration (and continues on for many un-phased users). Well, Sony would like to sincerely apologize for the whole thing the best way it knows how: free video games. The company today announced its “Welcome Back” program, which is letting all existing PSN and Qriocity users in North America pick two of the following games: Dead Nation, inFAMOUS, LittleBigPlanet, Super Stardust HD, and Wipeout HD + Fury. PSP users, meanwhile, can chose two from LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers, Pursuit Force, and Kill Liberation. You can claim the games at some point in the next 30 days, and once you’ve downloaded, they’re yours to keep. The gesture may well prove too little, too late for many disgruntled users — but even they’ll likely have trouble staying angry at Sackboy’s adorable little dirt-stained mug.
Sony’s “Welcome Back” package of free software and PlayStation Plus subscriptions was a nice gesture, but it won’t help you if your credit card gets fraudulently charged in the aftermath of the PlayStation Network debacle. That, however, is exactly what Debix is for. Sony’s announced that it will provide a complimentary one-year subscription to Debix’s “AllClear ID Plus” identity theft protection service to all PlayStation Network and Qriocity account holders in the United States, which will attempt to protect your personal data from harm, by both monitoring known criminal activity for your private digits and providing up to $1 million in ID theft insurance coverage. We’ve never used Debix, so we can’t vouch for its reliability, and this particular plan admittedly doesn’t look quite as comprehensive as the one Debix offers regular customers for $10 a month. Still, some peace of mind is a heck of a lot better than none, so we think we might take Sony up on its offer and sign up by the June 18th deadline. If you’d like to join us, you should find an activation code in your inbox before long.
It’s looking like things are just as bad as we feared and that “external intrusion” got a little deeper than we might have liked. In an update on its PlayStation.Blog, Sony just confirmed that the ongoing PSN outage was caused by “malicious actions,” which we already knew, but continues by indicating that there has also been “a compromise of personal information.” Exactly what that means Sony isn’t saying, and it stops short of saying that credit card data for PSN and Qriocity users has been exposed, but the company does say “your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.” Yes, it may have been obtained — even Sony isn’t sure. There’s no further ETA for when PSN may be back up online or when you might be able to finally sample Portal 2‘s delicious online co-op mode, but at least you can still watch Netflix.
Sony’s hosting a press event in Tokyo today where it just made the first announcement: a pair of Android 3.0 tablets — yes, the very two Honeycomb slabs we told you about exclusively back in February. The first is the 9.4-inch S1 media tablet (aka, Qriocity focused) with a curved top much like a folded magazine and both front- and rear-facing cameras. The S1 features a Tegra 2 SoC and customized “Quick and Smooth” touch panel UI with “Swift” web browser. It can also be used as a remote control for Sony gear thanks to integrated infrared.
The second tablet is the dual-screen S2 clamshell with its pair of 5.5-inch 1,024 x 480 pixel displays, Tegra 2 SoC, and camera. While it sounds bulky, Kunimasa Suzuki just pulled the hinged tablet from his jacket pocket on stage. Sony takes advantage of the two screens with a custom book-style UI layout for its e-reader app, email (keyboard on one display with your messages on the other), and others. Both the S1 and S2 are PlayStation Certified, support DLNA, and are WiFi and 3G/4G “compatible” according to Sony. See the Sony tablets codenamed “S1″ and “S2″ in action after the break on their way to a global release in the fall — possibly sooner in the US.
What started as loose-lipped tattle is now official: the PSP will get a taste of Sony’s Music Unlimited streaming music service starting on April 14th. The service, tortuously entitled “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” by Sony, requires a PlayStation Network ID to access all that digital audio. Once setup, Sony promises a “synchronized music experience” across your PSP, PS3, PC, and other network-enabled Sony devices like Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players — a claim backed by a cloud-based catalog of some seven million tracks supported by a “music sync” functionality that will automatically organize your Music Unlimited library after perusing the local files and playlists found in your existing media player (yes, iTunes is supported). Click through the break for the full press release and a good video overview of the service while you ponder the $3.99 basic and $9.99 premium monthly service fees.
Sony's Music Unlimited streaming service coming to NGP, will hit Xperia Play this year and PSP 'in a matter of weeks'
It may sound patently obvious at this point, but there’s still cause to celebrate — Sony’s streaming subscription music service, Music Unlimited, is headed to both the PlayStation Portable and its pair of divergent spiritual successors the Next Generation Portable and Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play. Eurogamer sat down with Sony Network Entertainment VP Shawn Layden, who spread the news readily, confirming that the service would be activated (at least in the UK) on PlayStation Portable “in a matter of weeks.” Meanwhile, Android phones including the infamous PlayStation handset will get Music Unlimited “this year,” and SNE “will make it happen” on the NGP as well, presumably sometime after the company reveals when its beast of a portable game station will actually come out. All in the name of taking your tunes with you wherever you happen to travel — a concept that’s getting rather popular right now.
In case you missed the news, last night Amazon gave us a little surprise by launching its free Cloud Player service, which lets you stream your music collection from the cloud to your computer or Android device. While this has no doubt put a smile on many faces (American ones only, for now), Sony Music isn’t too happy about Amazon jumping the gun over licensing for streaming rights. The record label told Reuters that it’s hoping Amazon “will reach a new license deal, but we’re keeping all of our legal options open.” Yikes. In retaliation, Amazon responded with the following statement to Ars Tehcnica:
“Cloud Player is an application that lets customers manage and play their own music. It’s like any number of existing media management applications. We do not need a license to make Cloud Player available. The functionality of saving MP3s to Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes.”
Of course, the bigger story here is that Amazon’s free Cloud Player is going head-to-head with Sony’s Music Unlimited streaming subscription service, which was pushed out last month after plenty of money talk with various record labels. Understandably, Sony isn’t willing to let Amazon cut through the red tape here without a fight, and this may also affect similar music locker services like mSpot and MP3Tunes, albeit at a much smaller scale. In fact, Sony’s already expressed its discomfort with those particular companies’ mode of operation, so you can probably expect to see this tension boiling over to some form of legal action before long. Now that a big shot like Amazon’s involved, it’s almost inevitable.