Microsoft has announced the impending launch of a new music streaming service which it hopes will be comparable to the ubiquitous iTunes.
Xbox Music will allow for free streaming with users being afforded access to a large array of free music content. It also offers a premium option called Xbox Music Pass, where for £8.99 a month, users can access Microsoft's full library of songs free of ads and access video content which is unavailable to non-premium users.
Arriving on the Xbox 360 on 26 October via a console update, it plans to hit the ground running with a global catalogue of 30 million tracks. Windows 8 and RT users will also be able to access the service allowing users to stream music on their tablets and smartphones.
Further features on offer include Smart DJ which operates similarly to iTunes Genius and a cloud storage system which incorporates tracks that were acquired through other services. Microsoft also promises further additions to the service will be forthcoming, including a ‘social music’ feature and a general ‘platform expansion’ that will allow Xbox Music to be played on non-affiliated hardware.
Xbox Music is being billed as an all-in-one music library, enabling users to access all of their personal music content from any Windows enabled device they own. President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, Don Mattrick expanded on this, saying, “The launch of Xbox Music is a milestone in simplifying digital music on every type of device and on a global scale, 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.”
The problem of the fragmentation of our personal music libraries seems to be an increasingly topical issue. With the evolving state of cloud related services being the most likely culprit to provide a cure to this particular digital ailment, Xbox Music’s cloud functions will perhaps be the feature that is most scrutinised at launch.
That being said, Microsoft is entering a market that is already pretty crowded. With Google Music taking aggressive steps to take a bite out of Apple by downgrading its search results to allow access to unlicensed material, and Amazon Cloud Player offering a similar service since September, Microsoft will be looking to use the Xbox 360’s global installed base (of 66 million) to give its new service some leverage in this competitive market.