Microsoft set to offer digital music service

Microsoft’s new Xbox Music service will combine the listening options of popular music apps like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes.

Microsoft’s new Xbox Music service will combine the listening options of popular music apps like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes.

SEATTLE — Music fans have often viewed Microsoft as something like a bad cover band, one that pumped out uninviting facsimiles of Apple’s iPod and iTunes with its Zune players and service.

Now that the Zune brand is dead, Microsoft is once again in search of a hit in digital music. But this time it is marshaling some of its most powerful brands: Windows and Xbox.


On Monday, the company plans to announce a service called Xbox Music that will offer access to about 30 million songs. The service will let consumers listen free to any of the songs on computers and tablets running the latest version of its Windows software, as well as on the Xbox console.

The service is intended to help Microsoft regain ground it has lost to competitors, especially Apple and Google. In addition to Windows 8, a major new version of its flagship operating system that will start shipping Oct. 26, the company is close to releasing a new version of its Windows Phone operating system for mobile phones and its first ­Microsoft-designed computer, a tablet device called Surface.

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Microsoft will package the Xbox Music software with Windows 8.

Scott Porter, principal program manager for Xbox Music, said many music fans today rely on a variety of services to satisfy their musical needs.

There is an option to buy songs, so a music fan can own them permanently with minimal restrictions. There are Pandora-like radio stations built around songs and similar-sounding music.


And there is an option akin to Spotify that lets users listen free to any music from their computer. Like Spotify, Xbox Music offers a $10-a-month ad-free service.

Analysts say the success of Xbox Music will depend on far more than whether the service itself is any good.

‘‘This is not going to matter if no one wants the devices,’’ said Richard Greenfield, a BTIG Research analyst. ‘‘You need to have a killer device.’’

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