Microsoft announced its own streaming music service Monday, in a bid to expand its catalog of entertainment content.
Xbox Music will let some Microsoft customers stream tunes for free, as well as search for particular artists, songs and albums for on-demand play. There will be a $9.99 subscription fee for Xbox and Windows Phone 8 users. Through the service, consumers can create playlists, stream and download songs or create music stations based on a certain artists, a service similar to Pandora and Spotify. Xbox will also offer music videos.
Microsoft promises to make the service available “across all your devices,” but that comes with a big caveat: the service is really only available on Windows 8 or RT tablets and PCs, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360.
That means no support for anything outside Microsoft’s ecosystem at launch, or even for Windows 7 devices.
And, according to a report from The Verge, Microsoft has no plans to make Xbox Music open to Windows 7 or Windows Phone 7 customers. The report said, however, that those users will still be able to use Zune Music and have access to the selection of songs in Xbox Music.
The company claims that the service has so many songs that users will be able to listen for “over 80 years and never hear the same song twice.”
With a service called Xbox Music Pass, users will also be able to download music and play it offline. Music Pass on the Xbox console, however, is streaming-only and requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription. That membership starts at $5 per month.
Streaming is unlimited for the first six months, then limited to 10 hours per month; paid subscribers will have unlimited access to the service.
Xbox Music supplements the content that Microsoft already offers on the Xbox through partnerships and on its other devices through its mobile application store — important selling points for the company as it pivots its focus from software to devices and services.
Headed into the holiday season, the company is launching a new tablet, new smartphones and a new operating system, but will face stiff competition from Apple, Amazon, Google and others in each of those markets. Not only that, the Xbox — which has led sales in the gaming industry for 21 consecutive quarters — will be up against Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U, starting in November.
In other words, Microsoft has a lot on the line this holiday season and will have to work to make its products stand out from the pack. Adding competitive features such as Xbox Music may be one way to bolster its case to consumers.