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Microsoft Presses Play on New Xbox Music Service

Microsoft Presses Play on New Xbox Music Service

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Microsoft is taking on Spotify — as well as the rest of the     streaming music  market.
The technology giant on Monday is taking the wraps off  of its     rebranded digital music service, now called Xbox Music, that      promises an all-in-one music experience. It wraps together     free, on-demand  music streaming, a scan-and-match feature, a     download store and artist radio  stations.

Microsoft, which spent a year building Xbox Music from the     ground up, says  the new service is more than a reskinned     version of its previous Zune Music  offering. The biggest     difference is the free on-demand service, which lets  users     select from a catalog of about 30 million songs. Similar to      Spotify, the free tier will be supported by advertising.
Christina Calio, Microsoft’s director of industry relations,     spearheaded the  label negotiations to secure the necessary     licenses for the new offering.  Calio worked in sales and     marketing at Geffen Records from1989 to 2000  before joining     Microsoft.
A premium version, for $9.99 a  month or $99.99 a year, lets     subscribers get rid of ads and be able to cache  music to listen     to when there is no Internet connection. The paid tier also     allows users to listen on Xbox 360 game consoles via its Xbox     Live online  service and on mobile devices running Microsoft’s     Windows 8 operating  system.
The service will begin to roll out this week, first  appearing     on Xbox 360 game consoles on Oct. 16, followed by tablets and      PCs on Oct. 26. Cell phones will get the service after Oct. 29.
For now, Xbox Music can only be accessed on Windows 8     computers and cell  phones, Xbox 360 and tablets with the     Windows RT operating system. The  company plans to add the     service to iOS and Android devices sometime next  year,     according to Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson.
Xbox Music  also strives to unify people’s existing digital     music library with the  tracks available on the service so all     the music, whether it’s on a user’s  computer or streamed from     the Internet via Microsoft servers, are presented  in one place     for listeners to choose from.
“We wanted to  make it so listening to music doesn’t require     people to work,” Johnson says.  “It should just be easy and     fun.”
Microsoft      announced     it would launch a new music service back in June, but did     not  release any details, except to say that the Zune brand     would be replaced by  its Xbox brand. Though Xbox started as the     name for its videogame console,  the company said it planned to     expand the moniker to all of its digital  entertainment     endeavors so as to have a unified brand.
Zune “was confusing to consumers because it was not well     integrated with  other Microsoft products,” Johnson says. But     with close to 100 million Xbox  and Xbox 360 game consoles sold     worldwide, the Xbox brand has become far  better recognized than     Zune, particularly among the young, early adopter  demographic     that plays games.
Case in point: the music  service launch has been carefully     orchestrated to coincide with the Oct. 26  launch of the new     Windows 8 operating system, which is supported by a  massive,     $1.5 billion marketing campaign. Xbox Music is also being woven      into the company’s unveiling on Oct. 29 of a new slate of     mobile phones. In  addition, the music service will be part of     its annual Xbox software update,  an overnight ritual that     console owners have come to anticipate because it  generally     delivers a slew of new features and services.
Will the new Xbox Music, with its new bells and whistles, be     enough to woo  listeners away from Pandora, Spotify and others?
Johnson  acknowledges that consumers have a lot of choice, but     emphasizes Xbox  Music’s ability to give customers everything in     one place.
“If people want an elegant, fun and integrated experience,     Xbox Music is the  only single choice out there,” he says. “It     allows you to have the best  music experience on the TV, the     tablet, mobile and, eventually, the Web.”
What’s New in Xbox Music:
— Free,  ad-supported on-demand streaming service
— Scan-and-match  service that lets users listen to their     existing music collection from an  Internet connection without     having to upload songs for which Microsoft has  the license.
— Cloud locker that lets users upload additional  song files     that Microsoft does not have the licenses for. This feature      will not be available until next year
— Xbox Music will debut  in 22 markets internationally, up     from the 8 markets that Zune operated in  last year.


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