Today Microsoft launched a preview version of its MSN Music service, providing customers with a selection of more than 1 million high-quality downloadable audio tracks. The music on MSN Music is culled from the five top record labels, as well as more than 3000 independent labels, and delivers a curiously impressive classical musical selection. The new service is available through the recently released Windows Media Player (WMP) 10 or through Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) at the MSN Music Preview Web site.
"We are launching a preview of MSN Music," said Senior Director of MSN Entertainment Rob Bennett. "It's a beta, and we know we have a lot of work to do to make sure the selection of content is rich. We've licensed a million tracks across all genres. We'll be adding content almost every day for the next 3 months \[to improve the service\] as we start to gear up for the holidays."
Initially, MSN Music will be an a la carte service, meaning that customers can purchase individual songs as they can now with services like iTunes; a subscription service will likely follow sometime in the future. Individual tracks are 99 cents, while most albums cost $9.99. However, MSN Music differentiates itself from iTunes by offering higher-quality downloads and compatibility with a wider range of portable devices.
Also, Microsoft will integrate MSN Music with a range of MSN services, a model that could ultimately prove interesting for consumers. Today, MSN Music integrates with MSN Radio, letting users discover new music and click a link to purchase it online. In the near future, Microsoft will integrate MSN Music with other MSN services, such as MSN Messenger. For more information, please refer to my preview of MSN Music on the SuperSite for Windows.