Looking to take a bite out of the iTune pie, Microsoft has launched a new music service called XBox Music.
The service, which takes the place of the Zune, launches Tuesday for XBox consoles and will be available on other platforms later this month with the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT,. Xbox Music will run on PCs, slates and Surface devices. At some point after Oct. 29, with the Windows Phone 8 launch, the service will be available on phones. There will be three levels of service: free-tier streaming access to a 30 million-song catalog (18 million for the U.S.), an Xbox Music Pass subscription for $9.99 a month or $99.99 annually, which removes the ads, and an mp3 download to own store. “Within a year we’ll be launching an iOS and Android client, so it’s not just on Windows phones,” Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson said. The free-streaming option won’t be available on phones, though the Pass will.
Much else is on the way. “Today we’re announcing we’re going into 22 markets,” Johnson said. “That number will continue to grow over this year. It’s hundreds of licensing deals we’re doing globally. We should be the first one to have free streaming of ad-supported content in Canada.”
“The old Zune strategy was to build a device and take that experience over to this client, then over to that client,” Johnson said. “You couldn’t even create a playlist on the console. It was the wrong approach. The right approach is you create a service, make it extremely rich and then work with clients to share features and create commonalities from the experience of one device to another. We have this great opportunity with the introduction of Windows 8 to deliver this type of simplified, built-from-the-ground-up, all in one experience.”
“Xbox used to mean gaming,” Johnson said. “But 18 months ago, it crossed over this mark where people started spending more time doing nongaming things on a console than they were gaming when they were connected to Xbox Live [online]. Now it represents entertainment across all of Microsoft. Xbox is clearly now being embraced and supported all across Microsoft as the consumer-facing entertainment brand.”