microsoft corp announced on Monday that Xbox Music, a digital music service designed to compete with Apple Inc.’s iTunes and Amazon.com Inc.’s Cloud Player, will be available for its Xbox gaming consoles on Tuesday.
The service will be expanded to Windows software-based computers and tablets, including the upcoming Surface tablet, starting October 26, when Microsoft launches Windows 8. Shortly thereafter, it will be extended to phones.
The world’s largest software manufacturer has been trying for years to turn the living room into an entertainment hub with its Xbox. More than 67 million units have been sold since 2005.
About 18 months ago, the company realized that Xbox users spend half to 60% of their time on entertainment services and not video games, said Xbox Music general manager Jerry Johnson.
The market-leading video game console already streams Netflix, ESPN and other channels, and bolsters its service with music and other video content.
“As an entertainment company, we also know that music alone and as part of various user experiences is a key ingredient,” said Johnson.
Xbox Music replaces Microsoft’s Zune digital media brand, which has struggled to compete with iTunes.
Microsoft will offer a free ad-supported music streaming service and a $9.99 premium subscription service for unlimited, ad-free streaming.
The service includes a download-to-own music store with over 30 million songs in its global catalog, exceeding iTunes’ library of over 26 million songs. It also includes over 70,000 music videos that are only available on the Xbox console.
It has cloud storage capabilities similar to iTunes and Amazon Cloud Player, and artist-based radio capability like music streaming services Pandora and Spotify.
Xbox Music will be available in 22 countries. Microsoft hopes to bring the service to Apple iOS and Google Inc. Android devices next year.
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