Microsoft is revamping its music offerings with Xbox Music, but even a new service with the power of the company's gaming system behind it may not be enough to compete with iTunes.
The Score is a weekly column scoring controversial events in the mobile industry. Want to get to the point? We'll break it down and give you the score.
The Setup: Xbox Music will replace the Zune branding and offer 30 million songs to users across the Windows 8 platform on PC's, tablets and smartphones, as well as the Xbox 360. The changes give Microsoft a more focused effort in music and the cohesiveness between products provides customers incentive to commit fully to the Windows lifestyle.
Microsoft kept expansive details about the future of Xbox Music private, but the company expects to launch its reimagined service later this year in a software update for the 360 that releases alongside Windows 8. However, the company will not only be competing with iTunes, but with music streaming services like Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody as well, making its road to dominate the digital music world a tough one.
The only problem with Microsoft's initiative is that even if the service had just as many songs as iTunes and offered an equal or superior experience, it's very hard to teach an old dog new tricks. At this point, most people who buy music digitally may as well be considered an old dog. People like iTunes, they're comfortable with how it works and they're unlikely to change their habits for an experience that's largely the same. Xbox Music: -1,000 points. Microsoft doesn't have the ecosystem that Apple has. The software giant is beginning to do a nice job of making products that work with each other. The Windows 8 rollout will see Microsoft's phones, tablets, PC's and video game system come together like a cute little metro family, but Apple has already done this with its MacBook's, the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Apple TV. Xbox Music: -500 points. Who buys music anymore anyway? Streaming is the new buying. Album sales continue to take a hit across the board. Whether it's at Wal-Mart, Best Buy or online with iTunes, music sales are not what they used to be. Xbox Music is on its way just as the streaming world is beginning to gain traction. Too slow again Microsoft. Xbox Music: -1,000 points.Final Score:Xbox Music:-2,500 points.
This score is kind of funny because it has nothing to do with the actual quality of Xbox Music. Much like Microsoft's Zune mp3 player, Xbox Music could be a great service that people should be using, but it has a massive hill to climb and is coming at the wrong time. This isn't to say Microsoft can't have some success with the service, but it's going to have to adjust quickly to the ever-changing music scene. For example, the introduction of a streaming plan to Xbox Music could be huge when considered in the context of an operating system as large as Windows 8.
Regardless of how many people Xbox Music manages to lure away from iTunes, a strong music player with a robust library is important to the success of the company's Windows 8 platform. But as it's currently constructed, it's a supporting player to the Windows 8 package, not a star attraction that will bring a crowd of new customers.