Microsoft Launches New Digital Music Service to Take on Rivals

on Oct 16, 2012
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**Microsoft to Push the Play Button on All Screens**

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSF) announced on Monday (15 October 2012) that is launching a new digital music service which will give people from 22 countries access to millions of songs. Called Xbox Music, the new platform will make its debut today (16 October 2012) on Xbox Live, the online service for the company’s popular video game console. Next week, Microsoft’s new initiative will also roll out on computers and handsets running on the latest version of its software, Windows 8. By making it compatible with all its devices and existing services, Microsoft aims to ensure that Xbox Music will be accessible at the touch of button.

Senior Microsoft executive Don Mattrick said in a statement: “We’re breaking down the walls that fracture your music experiences today to ensure that music is better and integrated across the screens that you care about most — your tablet, PC, phone and TV.”
**Xbox Music to Take on Rivals**
In a bid to compete with rivals, such as Amazon.com’s music store and streaming services like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and Rhapsody International, Microsoft’s new digital music service seeks to combine all the best aspects of these existing platforms. By providing a vast library of content, enabling free and paid models for streaming, as well as the ability to download and purchase music, the world’s largest software maker is betting it can draw consumers from its most popular rivals.

!m[Xbox Music Service Set to Compete with the Likes of Apple and Spotify ](/uploads/story/583/thumbs/pic1_inline.png)According to its statement, Microsoft has licensed music from all the major labels and independents, giving the Xbox Music service over 30 million songs in its global library, which is more than iTunes’ music catalogue of about 26 million songs. Like Pandora, Xbox Music users can listen to music similar to a certain song or artist, through playlists created by the platform’s Smart DJ. This feature enables customers to create playlists of live streaming or downloaded songs on one device such as a PC, which then updates their account automatically and stores the data, so they can access it using a different device such as phone, tablet or Xbox console.

Like Spotify, Xbox Music users will also be able to search for all the songs, artists, and albums they want to listen to, and begin streaming them for free via an ad-supported plan. To turn off the adverts, subscribers will have the option to pay $9.99 (£6.21) a month and also gain additional features, such the ability to download tracks on to their phone. Customers will also be able to make single purchases, similar to Amazon.com’s music store, where users pay for the download of individual songs which can then be listened to offline.

Initially Xbox Music will lack some of the social features seen in a service like Spotify, which tells users what music their friends are listening to. While those are likely to come next year, Microsoft is considering how to make those features useful without “spamming” users with constant notifications about their friends’ listening choices.
**Questions Remain**
There are still many questions surrounding Microsoft’s new music service. First and foremost, the software maker has not detailed the frequency of ad plays for the free version of its service. According to The Huffington Post, ads will play every 15 minutes — roughly the same as Spotify. Another issue in regards to the free version is whether it will be unlimited like the paid service or Microsoft will apply a limit to the number of tracks that users can play per month.
And last but not least there is the question whether Microsoft can make the service unique and compelling enough to attract customers from the already popular rival music services. Previous Microsoft’s attempts, such as its Zune music player and, before that, MSN Music, did not succeed in the software giant’s bid to dominate in the digital music market. Whether Xbox music will make a difference, remains to be seen.

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