This week Microsoft is set to release an operating system for computers, tablets and smartphones that will put a vast amount of music at users' fingertips, free of charge — with the music industry's blessing. XBox Music, a service integrated into Windows 8, is just the latest in a series of music-related initiatives by the software giant, and its record hasn't been good (seen any Zune music players lately?). Nevertheless, XBox Music could be a turning point in the music industry's fitful adaptation to the broadband era.
The new, advertiser-supported service will let users play songs on demand from an online jukebox, create customized webcasts based on the music of their favorite artists and buy MP3s from an online store stocked with an enormous selection of tracks — in short, a combination of Spotify, Pandora and Apple's iTunes. For $10 a month, users will be allowed to play an unlimited number of tracks without commercials, as well as access the service on a mobile phone running Windows Phone 8, a new operating system set for release soon. XBox Music is already available on XBox game consoles for a fee, and is expected to be available next year for computers and smartphones that don't run Windows 8.