Sony Corp. will begin shuttering its Connect Music Store starting in March, the company confirmed today. Rumors of the impending shutdown began in June after the company laid off 20 people and allocated remaining staff and resources to the PlayStation group.

Behind the move is Sony's decision to support Windows Media Audio DRM in its new line of Walkman digital music players, announced today. The Connect service, and previous Sony portable devices, used a proprietary technology called ATRAC which never caught on. The new devices will now work with any other WMA-enabled digital music store, such as Wal-Mart and others.

The Connect deactivation will take place on a phased basis in North America and Europe. Specific timing for each region was not disclosed, but is not expected to begin until March. Connect's e-book service will remain operational.

Customers who bought ATRAC-encoded files can continue to mange their library with past Sony devices, but the company is advising them to backup their library to audio CDs, as future Walkman devices may not support the format.

Sony's new Walkman devices for the first time include video. The Sony Pictures Entertainment division is providing video content for the new devices via the www.sonystyle.com site, rather than Connect.