Microsoft launched a rolling update on Oct. 16 to Xbox LIVE on the Xbox 360 gaming consoles of their new all-in-one music service, Xbox Music. Announced during the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft seems eager to enter into the music service business competing with popular streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora The corporation has also been pushing the Xbox 360 as not only a gaming console, but as an entertainment system as well.
During the week of the release, Microsoft announced that the streaming service will feature free streaming online radio, music subscription services, and music purchasing options. Microsoft launched these latest features to Xbox 360 users last week and will expand to all Microsoft devices on Oct. 26 on the release of the new company’s operating system, Windows 8. Xbox Music will be heavily dependent on Windows 8 as the operating system is designed to run on multiple devices – PCs, Microsoft’s new tablet, smartphones, and Xbox 360.
In a written press release from Microsoft, Yusuf Mehid, vice president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division, said, “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. 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.”
Meghana Reddy, sophomore, said “I think it’s a good way for Microsoft to [grow] and profit, but the name gives the impression that it requires an Xbox system to play music when you first hear about it.”
The release of Xbox Music is not Microsoft’s first attempt at expanding into music servicing. Back in 2006, Microsoft released Zune, a brand of digital media store dedicated to providing music players, music software for Windows devices and a music subscription service. This service had also expanded to the Xbox 360 console and Windows Phone through Zune software.
Zune failed to capture the attention of the music listeners and was not able to compete with Apple’s iPod and iPhone. In 2011, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of all Zune products.
Although vague details were provided about Xbox Music, it was clear that Microsoft would replace the Zune brand with Xbox Music during the June 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo held in Los Angeles. It was also announced that the Zune brand would be discontinued on Oct. 26 coinceding with the release of Windows 8.
University students appear excited for the new release of Xbox music. Cozzie Horsfore, senior, said, “It’s a great plan to compete with Apple if you can listen to a full song, instead of just previews. I actually don’t use iTunes, but it does seem that Xbox Music will give a better feel of things than Apple and give Microsoft an edge to compete to make their music service more noticeable. I also think its great that it can transfer to all devices too.”
This new music service provides a library of over 30 million tracks, becoming the world’s largest music library, compared to Apple’s iTunes estimated 26 million tracks. Xbox music is also currently the only all-in-one music provider that will allow users to listen to music in a number of different ways and on multiple devices.
Xbox Music allows users to be able to listen to individual songs or full albums for free through Windows 8, Windows tablets, and PCs. Users also can create their own music mixes and playlists through streaming or downloading songs along with being able to sync the downloads to multiple devices allowing offline listening during a plane ride or under the subway. Free online radio allows users to create artist-based Internet radio stations and Smart DJs to create playlists with unlimited skipping. Microsoft aims to use Xbox Music as a way to combine the functionality of Pandora radio with Spotify’s streaming service and iTunes marketplace.
Subscriptions to Xbox Music involves a free trial period allowing users free unlimited streaming to all devices for 6 months with advertisements. Afterwards, users would be limited to 10 hours a month, unless they are willing to pay a subscription fee of $9.99 a month to remove the restrictions.
Xbox Music is planned to also be available on devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system.