Microsoft has launched a new music service which it hopes will offer significant competition to Apple’s hugely successful iTunes service. The new Microsoft music offering will be called Xbox Music and will debut on its own Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices initially but will also be rolled out for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch a well as certain Android devices too; very soon afterwards. The news comes from Gigaom who managed to speak with Jerry Johnson, general manager of Xbox Music.
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.
The Xbox Music service will launch initially on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360 only and will come in two flavors. The first will be ad-supported and offered as a free service solely for playback on Windows 8 machines. The premium version will cost $10 a month and will be usable on additional platforms such as the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 8 phones. Microsoft will also offer a digital download store and a paid cloud music storage service which will supposedly offer an iTunes Match type experience too.
There is no doubt that Microsoft has the power to build something to rival iTunes however past attempts have never been that great. The Zune hardware and software was always hindered by its lack of international availability and it remains to be seen if this service will roll out internationally either. It has often been rumored that Apple would roll out some kind of iTunes subscription service but it has never materialized, maybe this could be the thing to give it a push.