Microsoft launches Xbox music service in bid to take on iTunes

MICROSOFT is launching a new music streaming service in an effort to take on Apple’s iTunes and Swedish startup Spotify, and build up excitement around its new Windows 8 operating system.

The company’s Xbox Music offering, which launches today on the Xbox 360 console and later this month on Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 PC, tablet and phone software, will allow users to stream or download songs and promises a catalogue of 30m songs – similar to iTunes.

However, the service will at first only be available on devices running new Microsoft software, meaning users of the iPhone or of handsets running the Android operating system will not be able to use it. Computers running older versions of Windows will also not be supported.

Microsoft will hope the exclusivity of Xbox Music – which is priced lower than its rival Spotify and will offer six months of unlimited listening for free – will tempt people onto its struggling Windows Phone operating system and encourage purchases of the Windows 8 desktop software and the firm’s upcoming Surface tablet.

The move marks the company’s first major foray into music since the failure of Zune, its iPod rival.

Production of the Zune stopped late last year having failed to make a dent in the digital music player market and as Microsoft focused on development of Windows 8.

Xbox Music will be split into three strands; a free, ad-supported streaming service with unlimited plays for six months; an £8.99 per month ad-free unlimited subscription service; and a music download service similar to iTunes.