Microsoft launched its Xbox Music system last year at the same time as Windows 8, and it’s now dramatically extended the service’s reach with apps for rival mobile operating systems, following a recent move to add web portal access.
The Xbox Music iOS apps and Android apps are available today. At launch, the apps support streaming music and the ability to sync with user-generated playlists, but offline music streaming isn’t possible. Microsoft says it will update the apps roughly every four to six weeks, and that one of these updates will add offline support. Simultaneously, Microsoft has adjusted its web portal for Music so that instead of being a subscriber-only system, it’s accessible to all-comers as a free ad-supported service.
Microsoft is evidently sensitive to the boom in streaming music services being led by apps like Spotify and Rhapsody. Spotify itself is trying to expand from being a mobile-only app with its Connect system. Apple is also planning a launch of a free streaming music offering via iTunes Radio, which is expected to launch at Apple’s big press event tomorrow–this makes Microsoft’s timing look like a desperate grab at attention. Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox One is due to arrive soon, but is in a pitched battle with Sony’s PlayStation 4.