As big companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft each compete to gain supremacy in the “Post-PC” era, a killer ecosystem is thought key to keeping users locked in to one particular platform. While we can grant Microsoft’s gaming and business pedigree, its music services have been lacking thus far, and to address this, the Redmond company is launching a new music streaming service dubbed “Xbox Music,” which will be available from Tuesday October 16 on Xbox 360, with further platforms gaining support soon.
The cloud-based Xbox Music service boasts a 30 million-song catalog, compared to Amazon’s Cloud Player and Apple’s iTunes Match, which each contain somewhere in the region of 20 million. Though music is primarily streamed, there’s also a store for users to purchase their favorite songs, and Microsoft plans to eventually offer a “scan and match” feature which scans your existing music collection to make it available in the cloud—something which seems to closely resemble the service currently offered by iTunes Match.
“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,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business Marketing and Strategy. “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.”
Initially, Xbox Music will be available on Xbox 360 only, from October 16 at a price of US$9.99 per month. Though we've seen reports that an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required, we're yet to hear this from the horse's mouth. Xbox Music will also come pre-installed as the default music player on Windows 8, released October 26, for both PCs and tablets, and this latter version sports the option of listening for free, with occasional advertisements interrupting the music.
Microsoft also plans to offer the service on Windows Phone 8. An interesting footnote is the news that Android and iOS-compatible Xbox Music apps will eventually come too, which is a necessary move if Microsoft hopes to wrench away from popular platform-agnostic services such as Spotify.
The promo video below sheds some further light on the new service.