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Summary:

Microsoft’s new Xbox Music service won’t just run on an Xbox: The service, which aims to compete with both iTunes and Spotify, is also coming to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 as well as Android and iOS. That’s a significant change of tune for Microsoft.

Xbox Music_All Music

Microsoft announced the launch of Xbox Music Sunday night, which could become the company’s first serious attempt to take on both Spotify and iTunes. It will debut on Microsoft’s own platforms first, but come to Android and iOS soon after. That’s a remarkable different tune from a company whose most recent attempt in the digital music space focused all around its ill-fated Zune device.

Xbox Music is in many ways Microsoft’s attempt to catch up with everything that has been going on in the digital music space in the last two years: The service will offer a free, ad-supported tier for playback on Windows 8 devices, a $10 subscription tier for ad-free playback on Windows 8 devices as well as the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 8 and finally a digital download store for those Black Keys tracks you won’t be getting on Spotify either. Oh, and a paid cloud locker service with track matching a la iTunes Match will be added soon as well.

So why is Xbox Music interesting? For consumers, it could be enticing to get all those services from one single company. For Xbox users, there’s something to be said about the integration with the device. Microsoft gave me a demo of Xbox Music on the console during a recent press briefing, controlled with a Windows 8 tablet – and searching for songs on the tablet and then sending them to the Xbox via SmartGlass is actually very, very neat.

But the biggest story to me is that Xbox Music will embrace Android and iOS. Jerry Johnson, general manager of Xbox Music, wasn’t able to tell me exactly when the apps for those two platforms are going to come out, but the sense that I took away from the briefing was that his team is working on making it happen sooner rather than later. Xbox Music on Android and iOS will look very much like Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8, which itself in many ways follows the style formerly known as Metro.

So why is this big news? Because Microsoft’s past attempts of getting into the music space were much more territorial. The company completely reinvented its DRM for Zune Music, making sure that Zune downloads wouldn’t play on anyone’s hardware but Microsoft’s – a move that irked countless hardware partners who had gotten their devices certified for Microsoft’s previous music format.

Asked about which lessons Microsoft learned during those years, the company’s director of Xbox Music industry relations Christina Calio told me: “It’s about the service, not the device.” Of course, it helps if you already have a popular device with millions of units sold to promote your service – which is why Xbox Music will be rolling out on the Xbox starting Tuesday.

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  1. microsoft rules

  2. good move by Microsoft! I hope music videos will soon follow!

    1. If you pay the $9.99 a month, and you have an Xbox with a Gold account you get access to over 17,000 music videos as well.

  3. Xbox Live rules

  4. And OS X when?

  5. This is totally pointless. Unless Microsoft sort out the broken digital out on the Xbox (the signal is a good -10db lower than standard digital out) then the Xbox, as a streamer, is redundant.

    1. I have no idea what he said? I love my Zune Pass and hope along with XBOX Music I can use it to manage music on my Android phone and tablet. Zune is so much better than ITunes, Spotify, Google music…I still use my Zune HD for music as android music offerings don’t hold up.

      1. An attempt to sound like an audiophile. Probably flames all over any posts linked to Bose or Beats too. Any decent amplifier can sort this little issue out. As a media service, xbox is pretty slick now.

  6. Arthur T Johnson Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    I bought a zune just to have access to the best music service. Period. and now they have made it better.

  7. How Do I DELETE My Account?!? I NEVER Use it But I’m Paying £8.99 Per Month!!! :-(

  8. Actually PlaysForSure devices CAN play Zune DRM. It is identical. Zune DRM tracks appear in Windows Media Player, which will sync with another brand. You are still subject to DRM device count restrictions, though.

  9. Plus, this service is 100 bucks a year if paid annually, so only 8.33 a month.I had Zune, now Xbox, and like it. I listen offline the majority of the time so streaming services are not to attractive. This take the best features from other services and combines them into one. Catalog is actually good…few omissions. Do I care they don’t have The Beatles?
    No. Like most, I already bought all that music …. on multiple formats. My big hope is that iOS and Android apps for Xbox look and act like they do on ZuneHD or Windows Phone so others can sample that interface.

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