Windows 8 Release Date with Xbox Music, Free Trial Begins Today, Feature Coming to Microsoft Surface, Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo Tablets
As Microsoft readies itself for the Oct. 26 release of its newest operating system, Windows 8, the company has just revealed an ace up its sleeve in the fight to out "cool" Apple. Buyers of tablets running Windows 8 will be able to handpick from a selection of millions of songs and stream them for free as long as they put up with an audio ad every 15 minutes.
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Microsoft's new feature, Xbox Music will be released with Windows 8 Oct. 26. The offering is currently unparalleled in the music streaming service arena in terms of pure listening experience, and the control it offers users for free.
The current 66 million international Xbox users can try Xbox music for free for 30-days beginning today.
Spotify, with its ability to share playlists, and Facebook integration, has been a user favorite since its release last year. The service allows track selection and playback on personal computers for free with only sporadic audio ads. However, unlike Xbox music, the service doesn't allow you to pick exactly the song you want on tablets unless you pay a $10 monthly fee for its premium subscription.
It's definitely a step ahead of the rest of free music streaming players available on tablets. The extent of the appeal of Xbox music though, remains to be seen,and will undeniably be limited by the expense of the majority of data plans. Most of those plans' cost depends on the amount of data you're using, so the more you use, the more it will cost, which could obviously make streaming music over a cellular network an expensive prospect.
Much of the service's success depends on just how well Windows 8 works and if people actually buy the tablets that run it: Microsoft Surface, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Acer Iconia W510, Asus VivoTab, Dell Latitude 10, HP Envy x2, etc.
Of course, not everything is free with Xbox Music. To download songs and save them for playback you'll have to pay $10 a month. The monthly fee is also required if you want to use Xbox Music on the Xbox 360 or on smartphones that use Windows Phone. On the Xbox 360, an Xbox Live Gold membership, which costs $60 a year, is also required.
For PCs running on Windows 8, Xbox Music looks like it should equal Spotify's features of free track selection and playback.
Xbox Music General Manager Jerry Johnson demonstrated Oct. 12 how users save playlists online, and can be accessed when switching between the service on the Xbox 360 game console, a Windows Phone, and a Windows 8 tablet.
According to CBS News who saw the presentation, "each iteration looked similar and had a clean interface with sharply detailed cover art."
Xbox Music will reportedly be the default music player on all new Windows 8 devices. The service will be available when Windows 8 launches on Oct. 26 at Midnight.
Apple's attempt at Internet music streaming
We first started hearing rumors of Apple's intentions to enter the Internet music streaming service game around the time of the company's big iPhone 5 event, and now it seems we may be waiting a little longer than expected. Speaking to a "source close to the situation," Sony/ATV, the world's largest music publisher, and Apple can't reach an agreement on a per-song rights fee, according to the New York Post.
Such rights are usually a fraction of a cent per stream, but Sony/ATV was allegedly seeking a higher royalty rate from Apple.
Apple is seeking far more flexible licensing than the agreements Pandora, the current dominant Internet radio service, has managed to arrange. Apple's licenses would allow users to play a selected artist more times than Pandora, and would allow the company to point people to the iTunes Store to generate music sales.
Apple justified its demand for lower fees by explaining that its proposed service would be more flexible to the desires of the publishers, playing songs that publishers wanted to promote at the time, instead of relying solely on the listener's musical preferences, as Pandora claims to do.
"While Pandora serves up songs based on algorithms, Apple's talks with the labels involves an element of promotion based on what music labels are pushing in any one month, sources said," the New York Post reported.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that Sony/ATV is about to pull out of the two primary copyright associations, Ascap and BMI, in January 2013. Once removed from the associations, streaming music services like Pandora, and the one proposed by Apple, will have to unilaterally negotiate with the publisher, making it more difficult, and likely more costly, to secure streaming rights.
Citing people who are familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal first reported that Apple was ready to get into the music streaming game earlier this month.
Apple hoped to have the service ready to launch alongside the iPhone 5, but the difficult negotiations delayed its debut, said sources close to the matter.