Microsoft is setting it sights on taking on music streaming service Spotify with its own Xbox Music streaming service. The new service, which launches tomorrow on Xbox 360, will then be rolled out to Windows 8, their newly announced Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8.
Designed to replace the rather lacklustre Zune Marketplace the service, which has 30 million songs, will be available on every Microsoft device; whether it’s your phone, tablet or games console.
The first platform to get the new service will be the Xbox 360 and it’s expected to make its debut tomorrow. UK pricing hasn’t actually be unveiled at the time of writing, but US subscribers can get the service for $9.99 per month for unlimited ad-free streaming. Unfortunately there won’t be a free version for the Xbox 360 – but it will be free for the first 6 months on Windows 8.
As well as streaming, users will also be able browse through 30 million songs and purchase tracks and albums to download and store permanently. There’s also a new feature called Smart DJ which will allow users to create their own radio stations, with Microsoft claiming the service would be a new form of “artist radio”, able to create instant mixes from your favourite artists.
Cloud storage also comes into play, with Microsoft’s SkyDrive system allowing content to be matched on your Xbox, Windows 8 PC and Windows Phone. A scan and match system will also allow your locally stored music to be added to your account for streaming on other devices, storing your music in a cloud storage account.
If you’re streaming music from the cloud, or downloading songs as part of your Music Pass subscription, the files will be in WMA format, encoded at 192 kbps. Tracks that you purchase and download will be DRM-free 256-kbps MP3s. No other quality options will be available.
If you’re hoping for direct integration with Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking, you’ll have to hold on for a while: At launch, Xbox Music will have no integration with social networks. You’ll have no way to collaborate on a playlist with friends or automatically see what your friends are listening to. Microsoft promises social features in a future update, but we have no details about what those features will be or how they’ll work.
“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 the Interactive Entertainment Business 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.”
Xbox 360 users should see Xbox Music replace Zune Music as of tomorrow (October 16th) by means of a dashboard update, while it will become the default media player on all Windows 8 tablets and PCs, as well as all Windows Phone 8 devices.
To coincide with Microsoft’s new music service the Xbox 360 will be seeing its yearly dashboard update this month, and it comes with a host of new options and features including improved text and voice-based search.
Xbox 360 owners will also be able to control entertainment with a new app called Xbox SmartGlass which will allow a linked smartphone or tablet to be used as a companion device or controller.
The update will also come with an Xbox 360 version of Internet Explorer, which will allow 360 users to surf the web from the comfort of the couch using SmartGlass, your voice or the Xbox controller.