Summary:

Sony (NYSE: SNE) is trying to give consumers an incentive to buy its music player, instead of an iPod, this Christmas – it’s struck relation…

Sony (NYSE: SNE) is trying to give consumers an incentive to buy its music player, instead of an iPod, this Christmas – it’s struck relationships with five music download stores to give Walkman buyers free music and other “benefits”. The deals are done with HMV (LSE: HMV) (UK), FNAC Music (France), Musicload (Germany), Terra Pixbox (Spain) and Planet Music (Netherlands). Offers will vary across the countries, but include an unlimited music subscription free for three months, free albums and a free weekly single. Further offers are being prepared for 2008. (Via release).

It’s basically a ploy to drum up sales of the latest Walkman range, announced in August, with more support for open formats and Windows Media, signaling the death knell for its ATRAC format. But Sony has a fight on its hands this Christmas. Apple, (NSDQ: AAPL) too, overhauled its iPod range in September with the addition of the iPod touch and, as the Baltimore Sun notes, three analysts’ pre-Christmas rundowns forecast an excellent festive season for Apple. With its own Connect music download store closing in March, Sony loses the ability to compete through point-of-purchase offers, so it has to come to arrangements like this. From the stores’ point of view, if those folk who do get Walkmans this Christmas can be enticed with free offers, maybe they’ll hang around.

Whilst on the subject of free music, Jupiterresearch analyst Mark Mulligan rounds up recent deals in the space to conclude 2008 may be “the year of free”.

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