Microsoft intends to solve the first-world problem of unlimited access to music however and wherever users want it with the launch of Xbox Music – scheduled to drop tomorrow.
It was rumoured the new music service would launch alongside Windows 8 on 26 October, but Microsoft obviously doesn’t want its new operating system to share the spotlight. Rolling out over a week in advance via an Xbox Live update starting Tuesday, 16 October, gives time for enough buzz to be generated about the service on Xbox 360 before it expands with Windows 8.
And buzz will no doubt come from a music service that offers a 30m-strong catalogue, unlimited streaming, offline listening, playlists, curated radio, plus albums and songs for purchase – that’s where Microsoft is taking its ‘all-in-one’ title from.
Xbox Music Pass
Free, ad-supported streaming will launch on Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs and tablets. A subscription-based model will be on offer via Xbox Music Pass, and what you get for your monthly payment is more than just ad-free music.
Xbox Music Pass offers unlimited streaming (without this, streaming becomes limited after six months), the ability to create playlists and download tracks for offline listening, as well as access to a library of about 70,000 music videos on Xbox 360.
The inclusion of music videos seems part and parcel of the highly visual nature of Xbox Music. The tile-based interface comes with full-screen artist images, as well as bios and other information to peruse while you listen.
Purchase and discovery services
Through the Xbox Music Store, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 users will be able to purchase and download albums and songs at a higher quality than the streaming equivalent.
There’s also a Smart DJ function that creates an internet radio playlist based on artists users like and related artist they might like. This service also allows for unlimited skipping, so users stay in control of what they hear.
Overall, it seems Microsoft has developed a fairly comprehensive music service that competes with all the major players, from Spotify and Deezer to iTunes and Pandora.
More to follow
More features are in the pipeline for 2013, including social features and cloud storage, which will keep anything users have downloaded, streamed in a playlist or purchased available for listening through any Xbox Music device. Microsoft has also hinted at versions of Xbox Music for Android and iOS, plus a web-based client.
Xbox Music will come pre-installed on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices as the default music player, but Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 users will not be getting access to the new service and will have to stick to Zune.
Xbox Music Pass and Xbox Music Store will be available in 22 markets at launch, while the streaming service will first reach 15 markets.