Microsoft to launch net radio station

July 14, 2009 | 10:02

Tags: #internet-radio #lastfm #net-radio #zune

Companies: #microsoft #pandora #spotify

It seems that software giant Microsoft fancies itself as a bit of a DJ, with the news that it plans to launch a streaming radio service “imminently.

The comments from Peter Bale, executive producer of the company's MSN arm, have – according to The Telegraph – pointed to the company's plans to rapidly bring to market a streaming service which will allow users to select exactly what music they want to listen to, rather than the traditional net radio method of a static playlist.

The service, which Bale describes as “similar [in] principle to Spotify,” may even extend to cross-platform support: hints regarding a client for the Xbox 360 were made, although no firm details were offered.

What is known is that the main reason for the launch is an attempt to popularise the company's Zune range of portable music devices. While technically proficient, the Zune devices have always played second fiddle to the far more well known iPod range from rival Apple – but a free streaming service which is compatible in some way with the devices could rapidly change that.

Therein lies the rub: Bale was careful in his comments to leave room for the company to charge for access to the service, explaining that the team was “still examining how the business model will work.” Rival streaming service Spotify offers two streams: a 128Kb/s stream with adverts interspersed within the playlists for free, and a premium offering with a higher bitrate and no adverts for £9.99 per month. Whether Microsoft would look towards this advertising funded two-tier pricing structure or would rather offer a time-limited trial before asking for cash is currently unknown.

When queried as to how imminent “imminently” really is by CNet, Microsoft responded with a confirmation that the service was due “in the coming months.”

Do you think Microsoft will be able to bring something fresh to the burgeoning music-on-demand market, or is Spotify – and services like it – already too embedded to be dislodged by a newcomer? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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