Microsoft Wants to Make Xbox Music to your Ears on the Web

Microsoft pulled Xbox Music from the ashes of the failed Zune platform — a great MP3 Player and iTunes-like service that never caught a toehold with the community. Now, the company seeks to compete with the likes of major players such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and more by making its music service available to a wider range of audience with the introduction of one more platform for your listening pleasure — in this case the web.

In the past, the service has been shackled to Microsoft-centric devices like Windows Phone and Surface tablets, but now it reaches critical mass with the introduction of a web-based version of the of the music app.

Welcome to My World

Though, it may better be termed Microsoft’s world, and my little space within it. Xbox Music will require you to have a Microsoft account, though that is hardly a limitation — it is like a Google account, and everyone has one if if you’ve ever used MSN Messenger, Skype, Hotmail, Xbox Live, and more. Log in you and are off and running…ahh…listening is perhaps the better word.

Web sign-in

Everything Counts

With Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets and PCs, you can stream millions of songs free. Search for any artist, song, or full album and instantly play whatever you want.

Xbox Music Pass will give you unlimited access to millions of songs on your Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet, Windows Phone 8, Xbox 360, and the Web. Customers can instantly stream songs or download them to listen offline, as well as sync their collection across devices so that  music follows along wherever they go.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Now that you know what to expect, click the green “Try it Free” button and to get rocking and rolling…or steel drumming…line dancing…well, you get the picture.

Music is unlimited and free for the first month, but subsequent time periods will set you back $9.99 per month, or $99.99 each year if you prefer to take that path.

(NOTE: I could only get this whole process to work properly in Internet Explorer, after failing in both Chrome and Firefox — which doesn’t bode so well for non-PC users wanting to subscribe.)

xbox music purchase

By default, the 30 free trial radio button is checked and you need do no more than click the “next” button. Depending on your setup, you may receive a code emailed or texted to you. You will need to register a payment method — both PayPal and credit card are options. This does, of course, mean you need to remember to cancel if you decide you do not need the service. With this step completed, a confirmation email should arrive promptly.

Now you are in and ready to start finding your music. The home screen is quite simple — there is a display of a main window, along with a left sidebar that allows for easy navigation.

xbox music homepage

At center stage, you can browse your music via Albums, Artists or songs, but the heart of this operation takes place in the left column, where you can begin searching out whatever your heart desires.

The best starting spot would be “Search All Music”, as here you can find and stream whatever you are looking for — within reason, of course — try not be too obscure. Though I have to say that the service does cover obscure music quite well, and I had a rather tough time slipping an artist by it.

xbox music search results

The search results divide themselves into three sections, with artist down the left and individual songs occupying the right. Meanwhile, the center of attention is albums, each of which can be placed on the turntable…ahh…clicked to play.

When tapped, the album will display a cover photo and a list of tracks. The Play button to the right of the cover begins full playback, while hovering over each track generates a play option for that song alone.

xbox music album

During playback of your song, there is nothing fancy — the same information occupies the screen, but a lower menu appears giving options for play/pause, skip forward and backward, as well as volume control. A Plus button next album and tracks allows the addition of that music to your collection.

With these basic concepts swept under the rug, it is time to shuffle along to other options from the sparse, but useful, left column of Xbox Music Web edition.

Collection simply is the place where your saved music and playlists find a home, while New Playlist is perhaps a rather obvious name — click on it and you will be prompted to name your playlist and then begin adding music. Hit the “+” button to the left to choose from existing creations.

create playlist

Precious

Xbox Music competes in an ever-increasingly growing market, and against more established alternatives, such as Spotify, Rdio. Google Music All Access, iTunes and…well, you get it, the list goes on.

As for Microsoft’s iron-in-the-fire, I threw numerous obscure references at it and it handled the job admirably. Playback was smooth and very quick to begin when a song was tapped.

When it comes to cost, the service weighs in a bit heavier than rival Google Music All Access — $9.99 versus $7.99, while Pandora seems a bargain at only $3.99, though offers considerably fewer features. Xbox Music also allows customers to grab an annual plan, which affords the ability to get twelve months for the price of only ten. So, it’s one of the many services that works great, has a great library — and you’ll have to choose the one that works best for you.


Summary

Music service similar to iTunes and Spotify.

  • Xbox Music  | 
  • $9.99 per month  | 
  • Microsoft
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