Microsoft’s New Streaming Music Service Is Free But Only If You’re Running Windows 8 Or RT

Microsoft is throwing its hat in the free streaming music ring, in a move that could act as a bit of a one-up on Apple (which doesn’t have any streaming service), but unlike Spotify or Pandora, not everyone will be able to take advantage of the Xbox Music service. The free feature will only work on PCs and tablets running Windows 8 or its upcoming Windows RT operating system.

At least Microsoft is finally replacing its Zune music service (yeah, the same name was used for those music players that failed to compete with iPods) with this new service, which will also be available on XBox 360 video game consoles.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Xbox Music will work a lot like Spotify and others of its ilk: Subscribers can pay $9.99 a month to download or stream songs without having to listen to ads. Customers who opt for the free streaming choice will only be able to listen to the ad-based offerings for six months, and then Microsoft will likely set up some roadblocks as to how many hours can be streamed.

Jerry Johnson, head of Microsoft’s music efforts, said he is committed to offering a free music streaming service. However, he said, “We acknowledge that free terms and conditions may evolve over time based on industry standards.”

On the one hand, it’s a good move for Microsoft to get a firmer hold on the online music game. But limiting its customer base to only users with the newest Windows software could prevent it from becoming as popular as some of its competitors. After all, even Apple opened up iTunes to PC users at some point.

Microsoft Offers Free Music Streaming, With Limitations [Wall Street Journal]