Microsoft Officially Launches MSN Music; Mac Users Still Not Invited

Microsoft officially launched the MSN Music Store today, marking the companyis entry into the online music download business. The company announced the service in September of this year in a public beta program, and todayis launch incorporates several new features into the service. It does not, however, include support for Macs.

Microsoft is also expanding the reach of its store by adding new countries to its service. Through a partnership with Loudeyeis OD2 service, a UK firm, Microsoft is expanding its music store to Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Services in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are "coming soon," and will be serviced by CDON.

Microsoft is also touting partnerships with OD2 in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom as a further extension of its reach, as well as a partnership with Digital Prism in Korea and iMusica in Brazil. This makes for a total of 17 countries the MSN Music store is available, though unlike Appleis iTunes, those other markets are closer to rebranding efforts than true extensions of the Microsoft service.

Appleis iTunes is currently available in the UK, Germany, France, and the US, with expansion in Europe expected before the end of the year. Apple owns and operates the services in each of its markets.

"MSN Music is moving to the center of a worldwide stage and will make it easier for music fans in 17 countries around the world to discover and download music legally online," said Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft corporate vice president for MSN in a press release. "MSN Musicis vast catalog, the familiarity of MSN, and the serviceis broad compatibility with more than 70 devices will open the door to online music for millions of people worldwide."

Microsoft has introduces a number of new features into the service, including:

  • Integration with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. MSN is adding to the power of Media Center PCs by offering MSN Music as part of the Media Center experience so consumers can now purchase and enjoy their favorite music without ever having to leave the couch.
  • Hot cities by decade. Music fans can take musical journeys through time and around the United States by selecting a recent decade and city from an interactive list and map. MSN Music has created a list of top bands from popular cities during different decades, as well as provided articles on each of these music scenes -- such as the Grateful Dead and other bands of the San Francisco scene of the 1960s to the Ramones and the rest of the 1970s New York punk scene.
  • Listening booth and listening parties. Music fans can preview select albums that are not yet available to download or in stores.
  • Billboard Hot 100 and more. MSN Music contains the Billboard Hot 100 and comprehensive information about favorite artists, including extensive biographies, discographies, photos, gossip and news.
  • Music videos. MSN Music features hundreds of the latest music videos from todayis top-selling artists.
  • Ring tones. For music fans who want to personalize their mobile phones, MSN Music will offer downloadable ring tones for many popular songs from Zingy.*

* Ring tones are scheduled to be fully integrated into MSN Music by the end of October 2004.

You can find more information on the service at Microsoftis MSN Web site.