With Windows Phone 7 just around the corner, it's no surprise that Microsoft is keen to put some kind of music-based infrastructure in place. What is a surprise -- and a pleasant one -- is that it's bringing its Zune music and video service to a host of platforms, including Windows PCs and Xbox Live.
There are a couple of new services winging their way to the UK this autumn. Firstly, Zune Marketplace serves as an MP3 store, delivering music that you can listen to on PCs, Windows Phone 7 mobiles or -- Microsoft promises -- any device that supports the MP3 format. That's nothing particularly new -- Amazon MP3 for example provides a similar service.
What's more interesting is Zune Pass. This is a monthly music subscription service already available in the US that provides unlimited downloads and streaming access to all the choons Microsoft has ferreted away in its gigantic Zune-shaped servers. It'll cost £8.99 per month, and means that from the same account you'll be able to stream music to your Windows Phone 7 mobile device, through your PC's speakers, or through your TV via your Xbox 360.
From what we know so far, this service is shaping up to basically do the same job as Spotify, except it's a pound and a penny cheaper per month, and can stream music to more devices. Spotify doesn't have access to any games consoles, and apart from a few very special (and expensive) speaker setups, is limited to mobile and desktop applications.
We reckon this is going to make Windows Phone 7 devices a darnsight more tempting when they eventually launch later this year. We love the Spotify iPhone and Android apps, though Lord knows they're buggy, and if you already possess an Xbox 360 or a PC, the thought of streaming music to all three devices under one subscription sounds pretty tasty.
We'd hope too that because these platforms are proprietary Microsoft entities, integration of this new service should be fairly seamless. We acknowledge, however, that Microsoft does have a history of finding creative ways of letting us down.
In terms of labels and studios signed up to help out, Microsoft has Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner Music waiting in the wings as well as 'thousands' of independent labels. Zune Marketplace will also be offering movies from the likes of NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and others.
What do you think? Is this another doomed Microsoft project? Or are the software kingpin's fortunes finally on the up? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.