Microsoft has taken a major step in fashioning Xbox Music into a cross-platform rival to online music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora.
The company released an Xbox Music app for iOS and Android, revealed the company on Sept. 8. "Starting today, your Xbox Music Pass brings the catalog of music to iOS and Android devices," announced Microsoft in a statement. Xbox Music Pass costs $9.99 per month or $99 a year.
The move comes ahead of the Xbox One release in November and arrives just before Apple is expected to officially launch its long-awaited iTunes Radio service on Sept. 10 during its iPhone event. Since Apple snapped up music streaming site Lala in late 2009, analysts have expected the company to complement its iTunes music store with a streaming service.
iTunes Radio, part of the iMusic app in iOS 7, was described by Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Service, as "an amazing way to discover new music" during the 2013 World Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco on June 10. "This is the best music player we've ever done," he added.
Now iOS and Android users have another option, particularly if they're already invested in the Xbox ecosystem.
"Today is a big day for Xbox Music: we're releasing on iOS and Android and we're also adding free streaming to our Web player, making Xbox Music and its 30 million tracks available on millions more devices and for free to anyone with a Web browser," wrote Jerry Johnson, general manager of Microsoft's Xbox Music unit in an Xbox Wire blog post.
Another draw: a synced music listening experience across multiple devices. "Add a song to your collection on your Xbox, and you'll also have that song on your iOS, Android or Windows 8 device on the go or at the office," boasted the company in a statement.
Featurewise, the Xbox Music app has some catching up to do. "We'll continue to improve the service on these platforms bringing offline mode to iOS and Android in the coming months," stated Johnson. By comparison, Spotify's mobile app currently allows users of its Premium offering to load up more than 3,000 tracks into local storage on up to three devices.
Microsoft used the occasion to announce an update to the Xbox Music Web-based player that offers Windows 8 users free streaming to any browser, according to Johnson. And more updates are in the works.
"Microsoft will add Radio to the free Web player, a quick and dynamic way to personalize your collection, discover new favorites, and create ultimate playlists by launching instant mixes based on your favorite artists," said Johnson. It will also provide users with "a view of the full recommended music stream" and will feature unlimited skips.
The Xbox Music Web player first appeared on July 1. Originally, it served as a way to allow Music Pass subscribers to access their playlists via a Web browser.