Sony Corp. said today (March 17) it would launch the first "personalized radio" service to mobile phones that consumers can tailor to their own tastes.

Sony Corp. said today (March 17) it would launch the first "personalized radio" service to mobile phones that consumers can tailor to their own tastes.

The Japanese electronics, film and music giant also unveiled the European version of its Internet music store Connect, aiming to beat Apple's iTunes Music Store to the European market, while relaxing restrictive usage rules of its SonicStage player, which no longer limits the number of copies per song.

Sony, at the electronics trade show CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, said it is talking with "almost all" mobile telecoms operators across Europe to bring personal radio to handset users, starting the service with the Finnish arm of TeliaSonera in April.

"We've been talking about networked services for a long time, and now Sony comes out of the gates with music services. The mobile streaming service is unique," said Robert Ashcroft, Sony's European boss of Network Applications and Content Services.

The personalization feature makes the service a world first, Sony said. Operators such as NTT DoCoMo in Japan and U.S. carrier Sprint offer straightforward music streams.

Already, half a dozen European carriers are building computer systems with RealNetworks to enable them to upload or stream music and video to handsets. These computers can handle music from Sony, but also other coding formats.

In Finnish trials earlier this year, the streaming music service appealed to older, professional users, because it enabled them to create their own music channel, Sony said.

Consumers can tailor the music stream by pressing a button on their phone to indicate they like or dislike a song.

"It's self-learning. The channel will adapt over time," Ashcroft said, adding that wireless carriers are expected to charge a monthly fee of €10-€15 ($12.22-$18.33) for the service.

Sony's service, which has no name yet, will work on advanced multimedia handsets running on the Symbian software system, available on phones from Nokia, Siemens AG, Sony Ericsson, Sendo and others.

The music will be sent over the GPRS data-capable network of a mobile operator at a speed of 16 kilobits per second. It is not close to compact disc quality, but Sony reckons it is good enough to start with, while waiting for the faster 3G networks.

Sony also announced the European opening in June of its Connect music store on the Internet, where consumer can buy songs from 0.99 euros apiece and download them on their computer before exporting them to Sony MiniDisc players and Walkmans.

A version for the United States, competing with iTunes Music Store, was announced in January.

Connect will start in France, Britain and Germany with 300,000 songs from the five major labels, including Sony Music, plus independent publishers and national and regional artists.

--Reuters

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