In February, Microsoft formally informed us we'd be seeing the end of Zune. Rumors swirled before E3 about the company launching a new streaming service, which turned out to be Xbox Music. Then in late August we saw the beginning of Zune's shutdown, starting with some social aspects and other things being removed. Now, it is sad to say, but finally we have seen the official end of Zune, at least in any future operating system. Xbox Music will take its place, however, the software is a little different than expected.
Microsoft has put Xbox Music into full effect and the software is now available on Xbox LIVE and will be expanded even further once Windows 8 launches in less than two weeks. The most important thing to note is that Microsoft has made this the one and only all-in-one music service. Free-streaming radio, music subscription services and music purchasing options are all available in what Microsoft's corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi calls "one elegant package." Here's the scenario Mehdi uses to explain what he means:
You're listening to an Internet radio station at work, say Pandora, and you hear a new song you love. You quickly stop what you're doing and bookmark the song before it stops playing. Later, in the car, you open Pandora to look up the name of the bookmarked song, then you open Spotify so you can use your subscription to listen to it again. Two weeks later, you're thoroughly in love with the song, and decide you want to buy it so you can burn it to a mix CD you're making a friend, so you purchase the MP3 on Amazon or iTunes.
Subtracting the false idea of people making CDs anymore, he's got a point. How does Microsoft accomplish all of this for only $9.99 per month? We have even more details after the break.
The announcement of the Zune rebranding and reintroduction to Xbox Music was certainly a nice accompaniment to the Surface pre-order launch. This is because Xbox Music, while accessible via Xbox LIVE and WinPho8, really shines on Windows 8. The 30 million song library, ability to listen to individual songs or full albums for free, create music mixes and playlists, create artist-based Internet radio stations and yes, even use the Smart DJ to make a playlist with no limits to skipping really makes this application stand out above the rest. What puts is miles ahead of the pack, however, is the fact that you can then purchase the song you love right from the same app you were streaming that song from. It's something I've been screaming at Spotify to do for a while, and I'm glad to see it live on the Microsoft platform.
If you wanted a reason to go and buy a Windows 8 machine, Mehdi adds,
We're going to power what we feel is going to be the best music experience for users of Windows 8, and it's the only operating system on a tablet that can do free streaming because of the rights we've secured.
So, as long as you have an Internet connection, Xbox Music is the default player for all Windows 8 devices, and you have the ability to not pay and listen to the same exact music catalog, with some ads thrown into the mix. The justification to pay the $9.99 a month, though, is the fact that you can reach up into the cloud with Xbox Music, and take your songs and playlists to your Windows Phone 8 device and Xbox 360. Microsoft says that we'll even see Xbox Music on iOS and Android in the future as well, and it can be assumed that you will have to pay to have access to the service on those operating systems as well.
Head program manager for Xbox Music, Scott Porter, explains the method behind Xbox Music,
When creating Xbox Music, we started off with a simple principle - music should never be work. That's why we've put it all together to create, basically, a one-stop-shop. It's a really nice marriage between unlimited listening, the cloud and your personal collection. They (users) can very quickly simplify their digital music life.
Windows 8 is all about making life a little bit easier for those who use the OS and Xbox Music simply compliments that notion. Plus, it really pushes the concept that Microsoft has been saying for years now, which is that the "Xbox" brand is no longer just about gaming and really is the center for all your entertainment.
Have you tried Xbox Music yet? Are you switching services from iTunes, Spotify, Pandora or any other software? I know without a doubt that on October 26th, my mind is made up. Post in the comments section with any hesitation you might have and I'll do my best to show you the lighter side of music, Xbox Music.