In a marketplace that’s full with successful services offering you streaming, downloading and cloud storage, you may wonder why Microsoft is bothering after their ill-fated attempt with Zune. But in the midst of probably the biggest shake-up in Microsoft history, they may well have cracked it this time.
Xbox Music, which is launching this week, is an all-in-one music service that will run on all major Microsoft products giving users access to more than 30 millions songs. That’s one big achievement as that’s a good few million more than iTunes, a platform that been around for a good 10 years now. It clearly shows that Microsoft have been working hard (and their bank account no doubt) to secure record labels big and small.
And Microsoft is quite rightly ditching the Zune brand for the much better and stronger Xbox brand. Many people may not have heard of Zune but even people with no tech knowledge will most likely have seen and heard Xbox from their child or from TV and newspaper adverts. And if that still doesn’t do the trick, Xbox Music will be front and centre of their new Windows 8 computer. Xbox Music is quite simply going to be getting unprecedented amount of exposure.
Anyway, you want to know how much is this service going to set you back. Well, Microsoft will be offering you three different ways to get your music. The basic, free model is much like Spotify where you’ll have a streaming service that’s limited by the number of hours that you can stream for, plus adverts. You’ll also be able to buy individual tracks to fill up your library, with prices following tiered model so expect tracks ranging from 49p to £1.29 depending on popularity and release date. But the best service being offered is Xbox Music Pass. For £8.99 you’ll have an advert free service that allows you to play any track from the catalogue an unlimited number of times. The pass also gives access to tens of thousands of music videos on the Xbox. Don’t forget that one pass will cover playing music using your Xbox 360, Windows 8 computer and Windows 8 Phone, so your music will be with you wherever you are. You can only use one device at the time though, due to licensing restrictions. However, using the wizardry of SmartGlass, there will be seemless transition between devices. So should you start your music on your Xbox as you’re getting ready for a night out, within moments you can transfer everything that you’re currently listening to onto your phone as you make your way to meet your friends. It’s all very impressive.
The only negative thing at launch is that you have to own everything Microsoft related to get the full benefit. That said, with the huge popularity and install base of the Xbox 360, the launch of Windows 8, latest version of their rather good flagship mobile phone Windows Phone 8 and their brand new tablet product Surface, Microsoft are one of the few hardware and software manufactures that infiltrates pretty much every aspect of our lives. But what if you have just taken out a two year contract on your Samsung Galaxy SIII, love your MacBook Pro and have a Google Nexus 7 tablet? Well you’re going to have to wait until next year as that’s when Microsoft has promised that cloud storage will be available, applications for other devices and platforms and the ability for users to match tracks bought from other music download services or your own CDs to their personal Xbox cloud catalogue. So in six months or so, Xbox Music will suddenly become available on billions of devices which far eclipses anything from Apple or Google.
To sum up
So Xbox Music is looking very promising and will most likely be a major player in the music market. Microsoft have learnt their lesson with Zune and now they’re taking an open approach to their new service as they appreciate that people buy different product brands. Although Windows 8 Phone is extremely unlikely to make a substantial dent in Google and Apple’s mobile phone share, it doesn’t matter as the service will be available on their phones too. Plus it has a box under millions of TVs and the service will be at the forefront of Windows 8 which will present itself in front of the average consumer who will be pleased with the convenience of Microsoft’s cloud strategy. So if Microsoft don’t make it a success this time, they’ll have some serious questions to ask themselves as they have everything possible going for them to make Xbox Music a huge success.