Sony to announce rival to Apple's iTunes

Sony is expected to announce a new online music service today, just hours before Apple boss Steve Jobs rasises the curtain on a music-themed launch event.

According to the Financial Times (registration required) the announcement will be made at the Berlin IFA show and will herald the arrival of a new multimedia service initially based around the company's PlayStation 3 console.

Apple's dominance of the music download market has always irked the Japanese electronics giant, not least because it owns a substantial chunk of the material being offered by the Cupertino company's iTunes service.

But Sony is no stranger to failure in the music arena, having already made an unsuccessful attempt to outdo Apple with its now-defunct Sony Connect operation.

Sony, which recently snapped up the music identification and tracking company Gracenote for $260 million, is expected to extend the service to its network-connected Bravia TVs and other devices should the idea gain any traction in an already crowded market.

Apple is expected to announce a more accessible web-based version of its iTunes music store with lots of added social stuff and longer previews at a press conference today, around 6pm UK time. Steve Jobs may also introduce an upgraded iPod Touch featuring one or more cameras and the iPhone 4's brilliant Retina Display.

The now traditional 'one more thing' moment could come in the shape of a revamped, cloud-based, sub-$100 Apple TV device, renamed iTV.