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Microsoft launches new Xbox Music

Microsoft is launching a new music service that’s designed to take on Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s Cloud Player today. The new services will be available on Xbox gaming consoles for now.

Xbox Music will be incorporated to PCs and tablets, including the upcoming Surface, running Windows operating system, after Microsoft will launch Windows 8 in October 26. Windows phones will receive the service after that.

With its success in bringing its gaming console in almost every household in North America, Microsoft has managed to transform the living room as an entertainment hub with its Xbox console. The largest software maker in the world has claimed to have sold more that 67 million Xbox units since its introduction in 2005.

Microsoft realized, after months of research, that many Xbox users preferred to use their consoles 60 percent of the time more on entertainment services like watching or streaming movies and other stuff other than actually playing games with them.

Currently, Xbox consoles can steam videos from Netflix, ESPN, and some other channels.  Microsoft is still adding more its online service with more video and music content.

“We also realize, as an entertainment company, that music is an important ingredient on its own and as a part of different user experiences,”  Jerry Johnson, Xbox Music general manager, said.

Xbox Music is the replacement service for the now defunct Zune service, which was discontinued last June as it struggled to rival Apple’s iTunes.

The new service will provide choices either to stream ad-supported music content, or a premium unlimited, no-ad service for only $9.99.

Xbox Music has a massive catalog of over 30 million songs, which is larger than iTune’s 26 million songs. The service will also offer over 70,000 music videos, which will be available on Xbox gaming consoles.

Following Amazon’s and Apple’s services, Xbox Music will also feature a cloud-storage option as well as an artist-based radio function like Spotify’s and Pandora’s.

Surface users will be able to handpick songs they like and even stream them for free if they permit an audio ad every minutes. This is slightly better than Spotify’s current offering, which only allows songs selection if users will pay for its premium subscription of $10 every month. Pandora free online radio service also offers only limited  tracks. While the free version of Xbox Music does not allow download of songs for future offline playback, customers can do so if they pay $10 per month.

For those who want to listen to music using their consoles or smartphones, they have to avail of the paid subscription. Xbox users also need an Xbox Live subscription to access the service.

Personal computers running Windows 8 will be offered a similar service to Spotify’s offering of free track selection and playback.

Xbox Music will be the default music player for devices running Windows 8 operating system.

The service will be available in 22 countries. Microsoft plans to launch the service to Android and iOS devices next year.

source: reuters