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Microsoft Returns to Digital Music With Xbox Service

Company hopes to challenge Spotify, iTunes, other platforms

Courtesy of Microsoft
October 15, 2012 10:00 AM ET

In an effort to challenge's Apple's iTunes, Spotify and other platforms, Microsoft is launching their own digital music service today, The New York Times reports. Xbox Music users will be able to listen to a catalog of 30 million songs for free through Microsoft's Xbox gaming console and on computers and tablets running Windows 8, the latest version of the software giant's operating system, which is set to begin shipping October 26th. There will be no initial limit for how much music can be streamed, though that may change in the future.

The new service is part of Microsoft's efforts to catch up with competitors, including Apple and Google, after previous attempts to establish itself in the digital music realm fizzled when products like the Zune music player and service failed to catch on with consumers. Xbox Music seeks to combine elements of other music services, offering users the option to purchase music, to listen to Pandora-like channels built around songs or musical styles and to stream music on demand. There's even a $10-a-month ad-free service for Xbox Music that resembles Spotify's enhanced package.

Whether the new service succeeds depends in part on how well XBox Music works with gadgets including mobile phones: so far, the Windows Phone lags in popularity behind Apple's iPhone and phones that run Google's Android operating systems. To combat this, Microsoft plans on taking Xbox Music to Apple's iOS and Android next year.

Microsoft also plans to bundle Xbox Music with Windows 8, which analysts could catch the eyes of wary antitrust regulators concerned that the company is using Windows to push its digital music service, though bundling Xbox Music with Windows doesn't seem vastly different from Google or Apple including software for accessing their music services on their mobile devices.

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