Sony hits back at Apple with Ping rival

Hot on the heels of Apple's newly-launched music social network, Ping, Sony has announced it will bring its video and music streaming service, Qriocity, to Europe by the end of the year.

With all eyes on the Apple's man in the black turtleneck, Steve Jobs, the Sony announcement slipped out with a good deal less ceremony at the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin.

Qriocity (pronounced "curiosity") has had a limited launch in the US since February. By the end of the year, it's set to deliver music, video, games and e-books to users in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Plans are afoot to extend the service to third-party devices, but for the moment, Qriocity will only be available to users of networked Sony devices including Bravia TVs, PlayStation 3 and Vaio computers.

Making the announcement, Sony's head of networked products and services, Fujio Nishida, said: "We are excited to offer our customers high-quality, cloud-based entertainment experiences across many of Sony's network-enabled devices."

Nishida said users would be able to transfer the music that they download to any device running the service, including smartphones. Film studios 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures have signed up to provide video content.

Sony has been looking to take back some of Apple's dominant share of the online media sales market - particularly since a large proportion of the music and media sold via the IT giant's iTunes store is produced by Sony.

The company has some way to go, though. Sony is a late-comer to the market, with Apple having announced the download of the 10 billionth track from its iTunes store earlier this year, and further competition is expected in the form of a soon-to-be-launched online service from Amazon.

But with the experience it has gained from its 40 million-strong PlayStation network, it's too early to count Sony out.

Even so... Qriocity? Qriocity? Doesn't have that instant, well... 'Ping', does it?