Microsoft has launched Xbox Music, a music streaming service that will rival the likes of Apple's iTunes store and Spotify...
1. Accessible across all your Microsoft platforms...
Though Xbox Music is already available for Xbox 360 owners, the service will be available for Windows 8 PC, tablet and phone users when the new operating system launches on October 26th.
Naturally, your Windows Live ID will cover everything, so you can jump between devices and retain all your playlists and purchases, which are stored in the cloud.
2. Taking on iTunes and Spotify?
Xbox Music launches with a library of approximately 30 million tracks, all available to stream via your Windows 8 device or Xbox 360. By comparison, Spotify has an estimated 18 million tracks in their library.
Xbox Music also features a 'Smart DJ' feature that will choose and recommend music for you to listen to in a radio format, and the usual choice of playlists, popular tracks and chart toppers. Though it doesn't have the range of apps that Spotify has nurtured over the last year or so, it can only be a matter of time.
Simultaneously, Xbox Music is very artist focused, and the ability to buy and download tracks you've found in the extensive library immediately make the service an iTunes competitor as well. And with extensive social media options and Android and iOS apps planned for 2013, Xbox Music is looking like an all-out assault on the digital music market.
3. Subscription plans
For the first six months, using Xbox Music for free will work in much the same way as Spotify free - unlimited ad-supported streaming for all users. However, after this acclimatisation period, Xbox Music will have monthly streaming limits.
However, for £8.99 a month you get Xbox Music Pass, which means full, unlimited, ad-free access to the 30 million track library. This covers your streaming, but at the same time you're free to purchase any songs or albums you want via the same interface. These purchases are stored under your account in the cloud, so they will carry over between all your devices.
4. Xbox 360 users beware...
You will need an XBL Gold subscription to use Xbox Music on your Xbox 360, and then you will need to pay the standard Xbox Music subscription fees on top of that if you want unlimited access. This could mean £148 a year, to actually use Xbox music on your Xbox, which seems a little ludicrous.
5. Are you Zune in disguise?
Lets face it - Microsoft's last journey into digital music was an unmitigated disaster. Zune was officially closed down last year, making room for another venture. Xbox Music should have a significantly better shot at success than it's predecessor... provided it can escape comparison. For a start, the service isn't tied to any specific piece or hardware, rather, the focus is on seamless cross-compatability between devices.
Additionally, Xbox Music isn't going to be optional for many users. It'll automatically be integrated into the Xbox 360 dashboard, and it replaces Windows Media Player as the default music player for Windows 8. Aforementioned apps for Android and iOS are in the works, and the net is being spread far and wide to get people using the new service. In principle, Xbox Music has all the features of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora rolled into one. If it works, it's going to be huge.
What do you think, is Xbox Music destined for greatness? Let us know via the comments section below...