Microsoft is expanding its Xbox Music service today, nearly a year after it launched alongside Windows 8. Subscribers will now be able to access music on their iOS and Android devices thanks to new apps for both operating systems. Both apps are available today and provide basic access to music, with the ability to sync and change playlists, but no offline functionality to play songs without an internet or data connection.
Speaking to The Verge, Xbox Music general manager Jerry Johnson says the company will "be updating the apps every four to six weeks," and that an update is planned to support an offline mode in the coming months. The iOS and Android apps follow the launch of a web-based Xbox Music, and Microsoft is also making some changes to that particular version today. After previously launching to subscribers only, Xbox Music web will now offer free streaming to all browsers. After six months the web-based version will have limited hours of free streaming, but for now it's open to all with ads.
Social features planned for the future
While Microsoft's Xbox Music service has been a fairly solid but simple offering, the company hasn't expanded heavily into social features like rival Spotify. Microsoft regularly holds hack days where it experiments with future Xbox Music features, and Johnson says that "30 percent of our hack day stuff are social features." Microsoft is currently exploring how to best roll out social discovery and friend features. "The ability to autopost and see what others are listening to is love and hate," explains Johnson. We'll be careful about how we do it." Right now, Microsoft is expanding its service greatly, and "social will be a bigger priority down the road."
Xbox One version revealed
Microsoft is also launching the Xbox One on November 22nd, and Xbox Music will be a big part of the services available for the next-generation console. The software maker is previewing the user interface of Xbox Music on the Xbox One today. Essentially, it's a more refined version of the existing app for Xbox 360. As you'd expect it fits in with the new Xbox One user interface, and provides access to playlists, radio, featured artists, and the top charts. You can also pin content from the service in the Xbox One pins section.
Although the iOS and Android apps are fairly basic, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 version of Xbox Music needs some serious improvements, the service as a whole is shaping into a compelling offering for anyone who has a mix of devices. While Spotify and others are available across iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, and Mac, Microsoft is also proving it has the ability to offer its own music service across its own software and on other popular devices. If Microsoft's promised "devices and services" strategy is going to pay off, that's an essential element for all of its services. At its heart Microsoft is still a software company, and its services need to be everywhere if they're going to succeed.