Microsoft introduces Xbox Music and damps Windows Phone 7 users
Xbox Music is Redmond's attempt at competing with music-streaming powerhouses like Spotify. Microsoft will offer two levels of service: a free, ad-supported version for all Windows 8 computers and tablets, and a $10 subscription service for ad-free playback on all Windows 8 and Windows 8 Mobile devices, as well as on Xbox 360 consoles. At least at launch, Windows 8 will have one advantage over consoles; Xbox 360 users will not be able to download tracks to the Xbox for offline play, and they'll have to purchase an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access the service at all.
Xbox Music will also feature a digital download store for users who want to own their music rather than simply stream it. Users can purchase individual tracks and albums for playback on PCs and mobile devices, though the Xbox 360 is limited to streaming only, and they can download previously purchased content from the cloud, as with iTunes Match. There's also a "Smart DJ" feature which will help users discover new music through recommendations, personalized playlists, and instant mixes. The music will be available in WMA format and encoded at 192Kbps for streaming and downloading, and purchased files will be DRM-free and streamed at 256Kpbs. Some of these features had been previously seen in Microsoft’s Zune music service, though like the portable player it replaced, the Zune service failed to make any significant market impact. Now, Microsoft is attempting to extend its reach to other mobile platforms, but with one annoying omission: early adopters of the Windows Phone 7 platform won't be able to use the service under the new Xbox Music branding.
Whether Microsoft will succeed in the market, which is already divided by deeply entrenched iOS and Android, will be seen in the next few months following the commercial release of Windows 8 desktop version. It may prove to be a difficult if not impossible task to move consumers from their iTunes accounts to a new and untested platform. Judging by the manner in which Microsoft treats its own existing customers and its previous market performance, Xbox Music’s survival is highly doubtful.
Microsoft, monopolizing giant, is not in a position to dictate the market at the moment since its upcoming Windows 8 is riddled with controversy and its mobile platform which has peaked at 3% of the global market share is in a slow decline again. Rather, this latest move is one more desperate attempt by a company which has already 'jumped the shark'.