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Microsoft Launches Rival Music Service To iTunes

Microsoft are going head to head with Apple's iTunes service with today's launch of their Xbox Music Service.

Microsoft released the new platform today via their Xbox 360 service and will expand it to include the desktop when Windows 8 launches on October 26th.

The company bills Xbox Music as an "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."

They provided these details in their announcement: Xbox Music, Microsoft's new all-in-one music service, specially designed to let users listen to music in exactly the way they want, begins rolling out to millions of people around the world Oct. 16 on the Xbox 360, then to the masses with Windows 8 on Oct. 26.

Corporate vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business Marketing and Strategy Yusuf Mehdi says, "No longer do people have to rely on service hopping to get the music they love.

For example, Mehdi explains, here's a not-that-outlandish scenario for a music lover today: you're listening to an Internet radio station at work, say Pandora, and you hear a new song you love. You quickly stop what you're doing and bookmark the song before it stops playing. Later, in the car, you open Pandora to look up the name of the bookmarked song, then you open Spotify so you can use your subscription to listen to it again. Two weeks later, you're thoroughly in love with the song, and decide you want to buy it so you can burn it to a mix CD you're making a friend, so you purchase the MP3 on Amazon or iTunes.

"There are a lot of individual services that do a good job, but today there isn't a service which can pull together the benefits of download-to-own, music subscription, or free streaming services," Mehdi says. "With Xbox Music, what we wanted to do is bring all of that value in one simple, easy-to-use service, then build some additional value on top make it really beautiful, and have it work across all of your devices. We've been able to simplify the music experience in a really powerful way."

Mehdi says Xbox Music will have arguably the largest music catalog of all music services, with 30 million songs, and that the experience offers a fantastic way of discovering new music. He says Xbox Music also will be the only all-in-one music service that enables users to listen to music in whatever way and on whatever device they choose.

"I'm excited as a consumer because I myself am a big music fan and this really will replace all of those other services I've been using," Mehdi says. "From a business perspective, Xbox Music is a great way to show the world what Xbox means for broader entertainment on their phone, tablet, PC or console."

With Xbox Music, users can listen to 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; use Smart DJ to create playlists with unlimited skipping; and purchase the music they want to own.

"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. "It's a great reason to buy Windows 8." Xbox Music also has options for those who want to integrate their personal music library into their "digital music life," says Scott Porter, principal program manager for Xbox Music.

And, because Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, users can take those carefully curated playlists, their favorite artists, and their streaming stations anywhere, and play them on any device.

Purchasing an Xbox Music Pass for US$9.99 a month will allow users to take that music to the cloud, letting them enjoy the collection they've curated on other devices such as Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360. "All they'll need to do is sign in, and they'll instantly have all of their content on that device, including access to the playlists they've built," Porter says.

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