Sony To Bow Download Service In Spring

À la carte service to launch alongside player device

Sony yesterday formally outlined plans for a spring launch of an à la carte download service in the U.S. and unveiled a storage medium and device strategy designed to take on Apple's iPod and similar rivals. The announcements were made during the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show, which runs through Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Sony download service, Connect, is now in beta testing and is expected to formally launch in April. It will feature 500,000 tracks from all five major record companies and a range of independents. Tracks will cast 99 cents; most albums will sell for $9.99.

As part of the move, Sony Corp. of America has formed the Sony Connect Inc. subsidiary in Santa Monica, Calif., to develop and manage the music service. Sony Music Entertainment senior VP of strategy Jay Samit will serve as GM of Connect and will oversee day-to-day operations of the business.

In tandem with the Connect announcement, Sony unveiled plans to release in April a next-generation version of the MiniDisc, the Hi-MD. The discs have 1 GB of memory