Set to launch throughout the rest of this month, Xbox Music combines elements of Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, and even iTunes, Microsoft announced Sunday. Xbox Music will be available through Xbox Live starting Tuesday, October 16, and will head to Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT tablets starting October 26. Windows Phone 8 devices will also have access to Xbox Music, though systems running Windows 7 or Windows Phone 7 (or older) operating systems will be excluded from the service.
Globally, Xbox Music users will have access to a total of 30 million songs from all major labels, as well as titles from a number of smaller labels. (However, not all tracks will be available to all users, as some songs are restricted to particular regions. Users in the U.S. will have access to 18 million tracks.) Microsoft will offer a free, ad-supported streaming option, which gives users unrestricted access to Xbox Music’s formidable library of songs and albums on Windows 8/RT devices. Free users will also be able to mix in their own personal music libraries. Free users will reportedly be able to listen to unlimited amounts of music, and skip unlimited tracks for at least the first six months (though it appears as though Microsoft has not yet decided a time frame), after which free users will be restricted to 10 hours of listening time per month.
To turn off the ads and gain unfettered access to all features, Xbox Music users can purchase an Xbox Music Pass, which will cost about $10 per month, or $100 per year. In addition to unlimited play time, paying users will be able to download their music for offline listening across all Xbox Music-compatible devices.
Mimicking Pandora and Spotify Radio, Xbox Music will allows users to listen to automatically generated playlists of music similar to a particular artist or song with its Smart DJ feature. Users can also create their own playlists, which will sync across all applicable devices. And, of course, users will be able to search for individual artists, songs, or albums, and play those directly.
If streaming isn’t enough, Xbox Music will nudge into iTunes territory by allowing users to purchase music through the Xbox Music Store. Each song will cost around $1.
Microsoft says it plans to launch Xbox Music apps for iOS and Android devices at some point in the future, but Xbox 360, Windows 8/RT, and Windows Phone 8 device users will have first dibs.
The free Xbox Music streaming service will be available to users in 15 countries around the world on launch. Xbox Music Pass and the Xbox Music Store will be available in 22 countries.
We’ll have plenty more on Xbox Music as soon as more details become available. In the mean time, tell us: What do you think of Microsoft’s do-everything music service? Let us know your thoughts below.