October 16th, 2012 02:07 AM
SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft announced Monday it was launching a new music service that offers free streaming for computers and tablets with the Windows operating system to be launched this month.
The Xbox Music service will allow users to stream custom-created playlists for free, along with music subscriptions and downloads, which will be managed in the Internet cloud to enable access on tablets, PCs, phones and television.
Microsoft said the new service will be “on par with iTunes,” the leading music service from Apple, with a global catalog of more than 30 million songs.
But the service also will have some of the features of music services like Spotify and the Internet radio operator Pandora, along with the music store offerings of Apple and Amazon.
It will begin rolling out around the world this week on Xbox 360 and later this month on Windows PCs and tablets and on mobile phones, with some free services and others that are paid.
Subscriptions will cost $9.99 in the United States and 9.99 euros in Europe, according to Microsoft.
“The launch of Xbox Music is a milestone in simplifying digital music on every type of device and on a global scale,” said Don Mattrick, president of interactive entertainment at Microsoft.
“We’re breaking down the walls that fracture your music experiences today to ensure that music is better and integrated across the screens that you care about most – your tablet, PC, phone and TV.”
The move comes more than a year after Microsoft pulled the plug on its Zune digital media player, its would-be rival to Apple’s iPod.
Microsoft began producing the Zune in 2006 but it never really threatened the global dominance of the iPod from rival Apple.
However, some analysts said the new service might fare better.
“Because of Microsoft’s size and what appears to be a new-found ingenuity, perhaps born of a need to reinvent the company or watch it drop to the second tier of tech firms, it has made a series of huge gambles. Xbox Music is one of those,” said Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street.
“And Xbox Music may be a winner, just because the Microsoft distribution network is so very big.”
McIntyre noted that Microsoft can leverage its “tens of millions” of customers with Xbox consoles for the service as well as the massive customer base of PC owners.
“This is an extraordinary platform for any service, particularly if the service is free,” he said.
The move comes as Microsoft prepares to launch its Windows 8 operating system on October 26 along with its new tablet computer, dubbed Surface.
Microsoft is also making an aggressive push into mobile phones with its Windows Phone 8 system, which will be available on smartphones made by Nokia, HTC and others.