Microsoft is giving their Xbox Music service a much needed update soon with web access and a full fledged radio service. All of these upgrades will make the experience better, but it still remains, Microsoft’s share of music is severely lacking. There were a lot of interesting and potentially exciting features promised at the launch of Xbox Music, but those haven’t materialized in the way people had hoped. So we’re just going to say it: It’s time for Microsoft to stop taking consumer’s money and pretending that Xbox Music is something the company is actually pursuing with a whole heart.
This isn’t about competition. If Apple were the only one running the music industry, selling downloads and providing an all-you-can-eat streaming service, I might encourage Microsoft to keep at it, giving music listeners a choice, but that’s not the reality. As it stands Spotify and Rdio offer very compelling services for those looking to drown in music and the choices available to get radio streams are a mile long with new ones coming out all the time. Amazon also provides a music marketplace on all devices. This is about Microsoft further segregating the already inoperable music market. A consumer that starts paying for Xbox Music is currently tied into Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox. When you have the world’s most popular desktop OS and most people still don’t know about the product, there’s nothing about that type of ecosystem tie-in that is consumer friendly.
Even though Windows Phone is far behind Apple and Google, there’s a clear reason for pushing forward and trying to make mobile work for the company, it’s the future of computing. Music on the other hand is not a very profitable business that will add anything to Microsoft’s bottom line. With Windows Phone Microsoft chose to be more open allowing 3rd party services to fill the holes they couldn’t facilitate very well. Xbox Music shouldn’t be a Microsoft streaming service, it should be a hub for other music services that then gets distributed to Microsoft’s different platforms.
If this mic is on, Google shouldn’t have entered the music space either. The entrance into selling and streaming music reeked of a me-too move they made just because they thought they should. What Google should have done initially was to create an amazing music play for Android (and desktops), build in their analytics, and take over what Last.FM couldn’t finish. Google’s an ad company, knowing what users are listening to and what’s popular are killer stats to know, a la Twitter #music.
Obvious Microsoft (and Google) aren’t physically hurting anyone by being present in the music space, but they’re also not contributing to it either. The smartest move for them would be to pivot away from the head-on consumer streaming market into an area that has yet to be filled very well, offering listeners/creators a useful product to enhance the music experience. If they really wanted to cause disruption within the context of music, they’d focused on ways to help artists make money. That seems to be a big deal.
[Image: Flickr user Spoon Monkey]