As reported this week by CNET, Microsoft is apparently chatting with several record labels regarding the development of a music application that would be more similar to Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, MOG and other streaming music, subscription services than the Zune Music Pass. Conceptually, Microsoft would brand this service with the Xbox Live name rather than the failed Zune brand name and launch the application on the Xbox 360, Windows smartphones and the upcoming revision of the Windows operating system. According to CNET’s sources, specifics regarding how the service would deliver music to consumers in addition to how much the music industry would get paid from any potential subscription fees haven’t been finalized.
Microsoft’s current foray into providing music for customers is the Zune Music Pass, a similar service that already allows users to pay $9.99 a month to get access to million of songs on the Xbox 360, Windows phones and PCs. It’s possible that Microsoft is simply renegotiating to reduce the cost of the Zune pass to provide a free version for users that would limit the amount of time they could listen to music each month across several platforms.
During late September 2011, Microsoft eliminated the plan that offered new users of the Zune Music Pass 10 song downloads a month in order to reduce the price of the monthly plan from $14.99 to $9.99. However, current subscribers could continue with the more expensive plan and keep downloading 10 songs a month.
Using the Zune Music Pass on the Xbox 360 also requires Xbox Live Gold service which can be purchased by a monthly or yearly fee. In an attempt to align more closely with Spotify, Microsoft could simply remove that stipulation for Xbox Live users or include music streaming as an included feature of Xbox Live Gold without requiring an additional subscription fee each month. Microsoft may also expand the new application to launch on other manufacturer platforms, a limitation that has restricted how effectively Microsoft can compete against Apple’s iTunes and Google Music on mobile. Microsoft’s own attempt at producing a portable music player collapsed last year after the company ended production of the failing Zune HD.