Microsoft Announces Xbox Music at E3

12:06 PM PST 06/04/2012 by Andrew Hampp, Billboard

The software giant offers a first look its latest product aimed at competing with Apple's dominant iTunes.

Goodbye Zune, and hello Xbox Music.

Microsoft previewed its new music service Monday at the annual E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, effectively announcing the next chapter in Microsoft's six-year-plus quest to create a viable competitor to Apple's iTunes. Previously code-named "Woodstock," Xbox Music arrives a little over a year after Microsoft discontinued production of Zune devices in spring 2011. It is also an effective rebranding of the current Zune music service, available on Xbox 360 and Windows devices.

Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer at Microsoft Interactive Entertainment, made the announcement 30 minutes into Microsoft's hour-plus E3 presentation. "Today, I'm proud to announce our plans to deliver the music service we have always dreamed of building, Xbox Music," he said. "And when we launch Xbox Music, we will bring you a world-class library of over 30 million music tracks and great new ways to share and enjoy and discover new music."

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The service will be available on Xbox 360 as well as Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones.

A brief demo video previewing the service showed an interface and user experience similar to Microsoft's current Zune music store for Windows 8, including the Zune Smart DJ feature. But it also featured enhanced social functionality including a Facebook-like newsfeed to keep users apprised of the latest artists and songs their friends are following and listening to. Here are a few screengrabs from the presentation.

No further details of Xbox Music were provided during the presentation, but a Microsoft spokeswoman told Billboard more details about a formal launch would be available in late summer. Also at E3, Microsoft previewed new titles like Halo 4, updates to Kinect, Xbox Live and enhancements to features like Bing Voice.

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