Sony takes on Apple with iTunes competitor

Sony’s believed to be making a bid to steal Apple’s thunder later today with a plan to launch a rival service to iTunes.

According to the FT, the company’s planning to add music and video streaming to the PlayStation Network (PSN). The official announcement is expected today, before the German electronics trade show IFA kicks off – and just ahead of Apple’s much-anticipated music-themed press conference.

The announcement is likely to be short on detail, but could still be enough to divert at least some attention from Saint Jobs and his latest rewards to the faithful. These are rumored to include plans for a cloud-based version of iTunes which would include social networking features to allow users to share details of what their buying with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Sony’s subscription-based service would initially be available for the PS3 and PSP, but could later be expanded to other devices including Walkman MP3 players, Vaio PCs, Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players and Sony Ericsson mobile phones. This fits with previous statements from the company that PSN would be made available to devices other than the PS3 and PSP.

The service, expected next year, wouldn’t be Sony’s first foray into online music, although its previous experience is one that it might prefer to forget. The company scrapped its Connect music service in March 2008, essentially handing the entire market over to Apple.

Around the same time, Sony bought Gracenote, a developer of file tracking  services for online entertainment for $260 million. In November last year, a Sony executive confirmed that the company was planning some sort of iTunes rival.