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Sony hopes to strike chord in online music

Sony aims to take on industry leader Apple starting Tuesday with an online music service whose songs will play only on Sony products. Internet analysts are scratching their heads, especially because the digital download service — called Connect — is geared toward supporting Sony's MiniDisc, a 13-year-old format that has never hit big. But some retailers say sales of MiniDisc players perked up in the two years since Sony added the ability to record digital music onto them. And Sony will introduce an offshoot of the MiniDisc in June, offering more storage at a lower price than competitors.

The 1-gigabyte Hi-MD disc will sell for $7 and hold 700 songs, Sony says. Because the new discs won't play on older models, the company also is launching a line of Hi-MD players, ranging from $199 to $399. Most other small digital music devices come in two flavors: hard-drive based or internal flash memory. A flash device with 512 megabytes of storage — roughly half the space of a Hi-MD — sells for about $200. The hot-selling iPod mini, with a 4-gigabyte hard drive, costs $250. But independent analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group thinks it's way too late. "Walk into a store," he says. "You don't see MiniDisc players promoted or people talking about them. Its time was three years ago, and it didn't make it."

News source: USA Today

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