Microsoft unveils full specs on digital music service

After teasing it at last June’s E3 confab, Microsoft has unveiled the full specs on its launch of Xbox Music, which aims to combine a plethora of digital music services into one platform.

Beginning its rollout October 16, Xbox Music will feature a streaming service (including a free, ad-supported level and a premium, paid one with no ads and mobile capabilities), a Pandora-like algorithmic radio service called Smart DJ, an MP3 store with scan-and-match capabilities, and a musicvideo player.

Starting tomorrow, Xbox Music will be available through the Xbox 360 console, and will then launch on Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs, tablets and phones later this month. Compatibility with iOS and Android will be added within the year, as will a cloud locker for user-generated content.

Though all of these features are run through proprietary Microsoft tech, none of them are exactly new, but the company is betting on their convenience and centrality being a selling point.

Judging from a demo, the service seems to have all its ducks in a row — launching from a tile preloaded onto Windows 8, a user is able to stream music, search, launch automated playlists and buy songs quite frictionlessly from one central hub, as well as share information from one device to another.

Yet the key to its success may well lie in its branding. Taking over for the now defunct Zune brand, Xbox Music is part of the company’s efforts to make Xbox its central entertainment brand, yet making sure consumers understand that one doesn’t necessarily need an Xbox console to use it could prove tricky.

As Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson explained, “Zune was device-based, this is service-based.”

Xbox Music’s global streaming library will contain 30 million songs (18 million available in the U.S.), and the service will see an initial launch in 22 international markets, with more promised to follow.

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