The days when your TV is the same by the time you get rid of it as it was when you bought it are well and truly over. The ability to attach modern TVs to the Internet has suddenly made them wannabe PCs, regularly downloading firmware updates and even new features.
So it was that within seemingly hours of writing our previous Online TV Services update (published on December 28th, but written around the 22nd), Sony added yet another big feature to its Bravia Internet Video platform: Qriocity Music Unlimited. It felt like we’d been given a last-minute Christmas present. Even better, it was a Christmas present exclusive to the UK and Ireland; for once the rest of the world was (and still is) having to wait while we get our hands on a bit of new technology first.
Now that we’ve had time to digest it, Music Unlimited - which is also available on the PS3 or your PC - has turned out to be extensive and interesting (though certainly not always in a good way!) enough to warrant a dedicated review.
There are essentially two main strands to the Music Unlimited service. First, it wants to give you access to music stored on Sony’s Qriocity servers, for streaming radio-style into your TV or saving into personal playlists held on Sony’s ‘cloud’. Second and, to be honest, more interestingly from our point of view, it allows you to create your own library of music to share across your supported devices (linked via your simple email account details and a password) by importing sounds from your existing PC library or by adding songs that you discover through the service.
Its catalogue currently runs to a rather vague ‘millions of songs’ - and no, we didn’t actually count them all ourselves - and Sony’s boast is that Music Unlimited has the flexibility to allow you to 'continue to enjoy your current favourites while discovering great new music through recommendations and channels organised by genre, era, mood, popularity and others'. What it neglects to say is that this is only the case if you don’t use a Mac.
For at the time of writing, there’s no software support for adding to the Music Unlimited system music stored on Apple Mac notebooks or desktops. When questioned about this, Sony’s reply was that Music Unlimited is designed for use with Sony products. The sheer dumbness of this is thrown into even starker perspective given the announcement just days ago of Apple’s soaring profits.
We guess you could just use the Music Unlimited service only on your TV, effectively as a ‘live’ radio station that also lets you build playlists from the content you find. But we really don’t think this level of service would be enough in itself to justify Music Unlimited’s cost.
Yes, that’s right, cost. For the elephant in the room we’ve carefully been treading around up until now is that Music Unlimited requires you to pay for it if you want it to deliver any even remotely useful level of service.