Sony today dumped its entire digital-music strategy thus far by announcing it would close its Connect digital music store and make its new breed of digital media players open to more formats including MP3, WMA and AAC - but not its own proprietary ATRAC format. This opens up Sony's latest digital players to other online music stores, including the non-DRM iTunes Plus service:

"With these new Walkman players, Sony has widened its digital music environment to support Windows Media technology. This gives customers greater flexibility in their music software approach," the company said in a statement. "As a result, Sony will be phasing out the Connect Music Services based on Sony's ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe."
Sony's SonicStage software and older hardware will continue to support ATRAC, but the company is advising customers who purchased ATRAC content to burn their downloads to audio CDs and then rip them to MP3 if they want it to play on the new Walkmans.

Sony Connect launched in 2004, but like other online music services, it has had a tough time competing against Apple's iTunes Music Store, as a result it will be ceasing its operations no earlier than March 2008.