Microsoft's Xbox Music to challenge iTunes, others

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Microsoft has announced Xbox Music, a digital music service designed to work initially with the 67 million Xbox gaming consoles that have been sold since 2005. With Xbox Music, Microsoft wants to challenge the dominance of Apple's iTunes and services like Pandora.

The service debuts on the Xbox tomorrow, and will be expanded to Windows Surface and Windows 8 on October 26. Eventually, Microsoft plans to provide Xbox Music software for iOS and Android devices as well.

Xbox Music features cloud music storage similar to Apple iTunes storage in iCloud and Amazon's Cloud Player. For fans of Spotify and Pandora, Xbox Music will provide an artist-based radio function. If you can put up with ads, Microsoft offers a free music streaming service; otherwise, you can pay $9.99 monthly for a subscription to ad-free streaming.

Xbox Music will initially be available in 22 countries, and provides a download-to-own music store containing over 30 million songs -- more than the iTunes library of over 26 million songs. Xbox console owners also have exclusive access to more than 70,000 music videos.

Microsoft is replacing the failed Zune device and service with Xbox Music after discovering that Xbox users were spending more than half of their time on entertainment services -- music and movies -- rather than gaming.

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