As previously reported, Microsoft’s brand new music streaming service, entitled Xbox Music, is launching this week through the IT giant’s videogame console, as well as through PC and Windows phone to coincide with the rollout of Microsoft Windows 8.
With a whopping 30 million tracks available, the model was proposed to be similar to those of Spotify and Rdio, offering a subscription-based model, much like Microsoft’s current Zune Music Pass system, as well as a free ad-supported version, but as its release looms, the wider scope of Microsoft’s plans looks to be a serious contender not only to streaming services, but Apple’s iTunes and even popular internet radio service, Pandora.
According to Antimusic, Microsoft are calling their new service an “all-in-one music service [that] combines the best aspects of free-streaming radio, music subscription services and music purchasing options, all in one elegant package.”
Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business Marketing and Strategy, told press that, “No longer do people have to rely on service hopping to get the music they love.” Microsoft are banking on using their installed user base for the Xbox 360, which already rolled out to its millions-strong users on October 16th, and will come pre-installed with Windows 8 for its launch on October 26th – which means that the average PC user will have Xbox Music ready to go.
Mehdi also offered a pretty tantalising example of how the one service can be used across platforms. For example, rather than using Pandora to discover a song, Spotify to listen to it, and iTunes to purchase it – Xbox Music is designed to the job of all three.
“There are a lot of individual services that do a good job, but today there isn’t a service which can pull together the benefits of download-to-own, music subscription, or free streaming services,” explains Mehdi. “With Xbox Music, what we wanted to do is bring all of that value in one simple, easy-to-use service, then build some additional value on top — make it really beautiful, and have it work across all of your devices. We’ve been able to simplify the music experience in a really powerful way.”
As a hypothetical example, you could be using Xbox Music to stream an album at your laptop, purchase the few songs that grab your attention, jump in your car to head to your friend’s place for some videogaming, listen to the songs you just purchased on your Windows phone, then arrive at your friends place and stream or listen to that same music on their Xbox 360.“Xbox Music is an all-in-one music service [that] combines the best aspects of free-streaming radio, music subscription services and music purchasing options, all in one elegant package.”
An umbrella approach, that combined with Microsoft’s proposed 30 million song library, will be probably be enough to at least have Apple a little worried about the competition.
“I’m excited as a consumer because I myself am a big music fan and this really will replace all of those other services I’ve been using,” enthuses Mehdi. “From a business perspective, Xbox Music is a great way to show the world what Xbox means for broader entertainment on their phone, tablet, PC or console.” The service already runs on cloud-based functionality, enabling all that data and user content to be used across multiple platforms and devices.
Xbox Music will also offer users any number of options for listening – whether its individual songs or full albums, while also offering the function to create mixes and playlists on the go, artist-based Internet radio stations, all while offering the ability to purchase on the go.
“We’re going to power what we feel is going to be the best music experience for users of Windows 8, and it’s the only operating system on a tablet that can do free streaming because of the rights we’ve secured,” adds Mehdi. “It’s a great reason to buy Windows 8.”
The only key factors in Microsoft’s catch-all plan now, is cost and cross-platform use.
Part of Apple’s dominance with iTunes was making it user-friendly and available on Windows and PC formats, whether Microsoft are planning to return the favour for its Xbox Music by making it available for iOS and Android is yet unclear.
As for cost, an Xbox Music Pass will cost $US 9.99 a month, which gives users access to the cloud, but no pricing on individual songs or albums has been revealed.
Regardless, it looks like Microsoft’s Xbox Music service is a serious contender to Apple’s digital music dominance if it can fulfil what they’re promising.
Apple were also reportedly developing a new online radio station and streaming service, to compete with services such as Spotify, Pandora – and now Xbox Music. But in a serious blow to the tech giant, the service was canned from the iPhone 5 at the last minute following a dispute with the world’s largest music publisher, Sony ATV.
Another entity looking to take a bite out of Apple, is Canadian music legend Neil Young, who recently revealed plans of his new iPod killer, a digital music player that focuses on a recording technology that preserves the fidelity of music the way it was intended, giving Apple another reason to worry about their dominance in the music field.