Microsoft has a big challenge in front of it but the company appears to be ready. Moving away from a start-menu based operating system that was featured for roughly two decades; the new version of Windows will be greeted with some negativity. Itís almost unavoidable. When something that people have used for that long of a period of time changes, there will be some negative reactions. With a new navigating experience called Metro that connects Windows 8ís programs and applications and simply integrates an app store, Windows users are in for some changes. One of the apps that will almost certainly be taken advantage of by new Windows 8 users is Xbox Music. Moving away from the Zune brand and using the companyís successful Xbox brand was a logical step after Zune never really took off the way Bill Gates and co. were hoping it would. Now that the Windows 8 launch is this week, the question for music lovers is if Xbox Music is worth using in addition to, or instead of, services like Spotify, Rhapsody, and iTunes.
Microsoft will launch Xbox Music for PCs with the release of Windows 8. The service launched on Xbox 360 on October 16th. The release of Xbox Music for Windows 8 Phone will debut in the coming weeks. Right now, the music library of what will be available is promising. There are over 30 million songs in a global catalog. With the new application, music lovers will be able to listen to music in a variety of ways. In fact, Xbox Music has potential because of its blanket approach to digital music. It features free streaming inside of Windows 8 devices, Xbox Music Pass as a pay subscription option, Xbox Music Store as a buy-to-own alternative and artist-based radio called Smart DJ.
The advantages of the service for Windows 8 users should be the main draw for Xbox Music. You can stream songs, absolutely free, on any Windows 8-based device. You donít have to purchase a subscription to be able to do it, but it will contain advertisements. If you do decide to pick up an Xbox Music Pass for $9.99 a month, youíll notice the service will be similar to Spotifyís pay option. Youíll be able to stream pretty much anything, and youíll be able to skip anything you donít want to listen to. Also, you can create playlists and add anything to your library across the devices you use Windows 8 on. The other benefit of subscribing to Xbox Music Pass is youíll get unlimited ad-free playback of songs in the serviceís catalog across all of your devices that have Xbox Music and youíll be able to access songs you downloaded in the cloud through the devices. You can also download-to-own music in the Xbox Music Store and have it available forever in the cloud so you can download it on whatever device you want to use. In addition to the Xbox Music Pass, Free Streaming, and the Xbox Music Store, Xbox Music has artist-powered radio similar to Pandora, simply titled Smart DJ.
Xbox Music hasnít launched for PC yet. That happens on October 26th. However, the service did launch on Xbox LIVE a few days ago to some lackluster reviews. The main chorus of displeasure was that a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 a month for Xbox Music Pass, (which you have to have to use Xbox Music on Xbox 360) on top of a LIVE subscription fee was hard to stomach. It should be noted however that the Zune music service was available across Xbox LIVE for the Xbox 360 and users also had to have a Zune subscription to take full advantage of the application. Using the service on an X360 console should not be a main point in the new serviceís assessment, it should be viewed as more of a bonus for consumers who do choose to pick up a subscription for use on a Windows 8 phone, tablet, or PC. A fair review canít be completed until the launch of Windows 8.
What about Zune users though? There are loads of Zune subscribers out there that will be affected, but only casually so. People who are Zune users have been automatically switched over to Xbox Music but unless they upgrade to Windows 8 on their PC they wonít be able to take advantage of the full program. There isnít an experience for Xbox Music on Windows 7 devices and older quite yet. For now, those people will start up and login to the Zune application like they normally would. There is hope for people not looking to upgrade to Windows 8 anytime soon; the company will be spreading the service eventually across other platforms and operating systems.
Microsoft has big hopes for Xbox Music and the service definitely shows some promise. However, the success of Microsoftís digital music plans tie heavily to Windows 8. If Windows 8 turns out to be the next Vista and Microsoft doesnít launch Xbox Music for older versions of Windows then Xbox Music will certainly fail. The success of the new program also ties in to further cooperation of record labels and independent musicians. With over 30 million songs, that shouldnít be a problem, but we canít judge things fairly until the launch of Windows 8. Weíll dive into Xbox Music and post a full review next week.