Microsoft officially announced Xbox Music on Sunday, the company's answer to Apple's iTunes digital content service.
The company said on Sunday that Xbox Music will be an all-in-one music service which will be included in a rolling update to Xbox Live starting Tuesday, October 16. The service will be expanded into Windows 8 when the new OS launches on October 26, and Windows Phone 8 shortly thereafter.
"The all-in-one music service combines the best aspects of free-streaming radio, music subscription services and music purchasing options, all in one elegant package," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business Marketing and Strategy. "No longer do people have to rely on 'service hopping' to get the music they love."
Service hopping is defined as hearing a tune on an internet radio station like Pandora, and then hunting it down on a music subscription service. The user would then load up iTunes and actually purchase the song so it can be played on multiple devices. Microsoft's Xbox Music service wants to eliminate all that by offering a one-stop shop for discovery and purchasing.
Mehdi claims that Xbox Music will offer 30 million download-to-own songs from the start, and over 70,000 music videos only available on the Xbox 360 console. Even more, users will be able to hear individual songs or full albums for free on their Windows 8-based tablet and PC, create music mixes and playlists, create artist-based Internet radio stations, and use Smart DJ to create playlists with unlimited skipping. It will all be cloud-based too so that users can access their music and playlists from multiple devices.
"We’re going to power what we feel is going to be the best music experience for users of Windows 8, and it’s the only operating system on a tablet that can do free streaming because of the rights we’ve secured," Mehdi says.
Naturally there's a catch to the whole Xbox Music service. Users will be able to stream music for free on internet-connected Windows 8-based PCs and tablets, but it will be ad-supported. But by purchasing an Xbox Music Pass for US $9.99 a month, users will be able to take that music to the cloud so they can enjoy the collection they’ve curated on other devices such as Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360.
Eventually Microsoft will offer apps for other platforms like iOS and Android.
"When creating Xbox Music, we started off with a simple principle — music should never be work. That’s why we’ve put it all together to create, basically, a one-stop-shop," said Scott Porter, principal program manager for Microsoft’s Xbox Music. "It’s a really nice marriage between unlimited listening, the cloud and your personal collection. We hope users out there will see that we’ve put together the world’s entire catalog that they can easily integrate with what they already own — they can very quickly simplify their digital music life."
Xbox Music, launching on Tuesday, will be available in 22 countries. The entire Microsoft announcement can be read here.