The sources said the talks are only preliminary and no deals have been struck. But it seems that Sony is considering offering music on the PlayStation Network, the company's nascent multiplayer gaming and digital download service. Such a move could place the PSP in direct competition with other multi-use music players, most notably the iPhone.
Spokespeople from Sony and the big recording labels declined to comment for this story.
Told that Sony was interested in music for the PSP, Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, a financial services company, applauded the idea.
"This makes total sense that Sony would try to get content for the device," Pachter said. "If Sony is smart, they would manage it the same way iTunes has and be device-agnostic. Whatever you get on a Sony site should play on an iPod as well.
When it comes to selling music online, Sony hasn't had much luck there either. Connect was Sony's answer to iTunes, but the download service proved hopelessly buggy. Sony shut the service down in August 2007.
The good news for Sony is that CEO Howard Stringer appears willing to adopt a more open approach.
"If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple," Stringer told Nikkei Electronics Asia recently. "Sony hasn't taken open technology very seriously in the past. Its Connect music download service was a failure. It was based on OpenMG, a proprietary digital rights management (DRM) technology. At the time, we thought we would make more money that way than with open technology, because we could manage the customers and their downloads.
"This approach, however, created a problem," Stringer said. "Customers couldn't download music from any Web sites except those that contracted with Sony."
This should be welcome news to PSP fans, many of whom consider the device an excellent game and video player. If Stringer is good to his word, and if Sony does offer music downloads, the company won't try to imprison songs in a Sony system.