Welp, here comes another major player in the music industry. Microsoft
has just shown its much-rumored cards, officially unveiling plans to launch Xbox
Music. The company isn't downplaying the service's significance, calling it the "ultimate all-in-one music service, featuring free streaming on Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets + PCs." The service will launch at a time when things like iTunes, Rhapsody, Spotify, MOG, Pandora and Sony's own Music Unlimited are already hunting for market share. In other words, Microsoft's very late to this party, but it certainly has some compelling offerings.
Users will enjoy a library of songs some 30 million deep, and for Microsoft / Xbox loyalists, the integration is impressive. Microsoft claims that Xbox Music will give users the freedom to "stream custom-created playlists for free, subscribe to all the music you want or download-to-own your favorite songs." Yes, it'll rely heavily on the cloud, as it begins to roll out tomorrow on Xbox 360 and later this month on Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs and tablets and on mobile phones, starting with Windows Phone 8 at launch and additional platforms later.
Perhaps the killer feature is the free streaming on Windows 8 and Windows RT. Yes, free, and with unlimited playlists, too. Another branch of the service is Xbox Music Pass, which offers ad-free, unlimited playback of any track in our subscription catalog across your tablet, PC, phone and Xbox 360 for US$9.99 per month. In other words, those looking for offline playback will need to pony up, as with rival services.
There really isn't a lot here that isn't already offered elsewhere, and it's strange to see Zune players left out entirely (may they rest in peace), but Microsoft does confirm that Xbox Music will become available on other platforms in the coming year. Whether or not that'll include Android or iOS remains to be seen.