Microsoft wants iTunes users to switch to Xbox Music when they get a Surface tablet

Microsoft has never revealed any information on how many people use its Xbox Music apps, but the company clearly would like to take some of the massive audience away from Apple's iTunes via their own music marketplace. This week, the Surface division posted up a brief video that showed how iTunes music tracks and playlists can be transferred to a new Surface and played on the Xbox Music app.

The quick, and unlisted, YouTube clip appeared on Microsoft's official Surface blog this week. It shows how owners can simply connect a USB flash drive that contains an iTunes playlist to the tablet. The list can then be dragged and dropped into the Surface's music folder. If a user has a custom playlist on iTunes they which to retain on the Surface, owners can bring up the Xbox Music app and then tap or click on the "Import playlist" option; the app should take care of everything else.

While not a direct shot against Apple, the blog post and video does show that Microsoft wants people to understand that if they buy a new Surface tablet, they don't have to suddenly dump the content they may have bought in the past on iTunes.

Source: Microsoft

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59 Comments

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kayzee said,
Yes but can Xbox Music be used by AirPort Express? If not it's DOA for me...

It does support Wi-Fi if that's what you mean.

Eric said,

It does support Wi-Fi if that's what you mean.

Not really. I haven't actually got my AirPort Express yet, but I presume it's only able to communicate via iTunes, unfortunately (I hate that software)

That is nothing special, I can do essentially the same thing with my Android phone/tablet. What about the iTunes DRM protected music/movies? will it play those too? if it can, you can colour me impressed.

Forget it.

Until the Music app gets the minimal content management features, that is automatic playlists and rating, there is no way an iTunes user would switch to the barebones offering of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Microsoft just doesn't get it. We're 2 years now with the Music app and the features set is already standing still. The offering is simply sub-par. Development velocity is very low and it doesn't give the impression they actually care about their ecosystem.

Microsoft wants iTunes users to switch to Xbox Music when they get a Surface tablet

There is no iTunes on Windows RT. This is about playing your iTunes music on a device that doesn't support iTunes, not about what Microsoft wants.

rfirth said,
This is about playing your iTunes music on a device that doesn't support iTunes

And possibly a dig at the iPad for not allowing allowing the user to easily import her music files from a USB stick. (at least that's how I interpreted the "no longer locked into iTunes" voiceover)

I really like Xbox Music so far. The only thing I hate is that when my screen turns off the music app stops... What is with that?! But other than that, its great! =)

Magoo said,
im not going to use xbox music as long as they keep putting ads in while i play my own music

Make sure you're explicitly listening to what's on your PC. There was before an option to explore other music by the artist you're listening to that would play ads, but not if you're strictly listening to what's on your machine.

I've been here for the last 30 minutes listening without ads.

it could be that the option for that was turned on but im not sure. its been along time since i used xbox music and it was all because of the ads that i stopped using it.

Got into an "argument" with someone on Neowin about this a while ago - nice to see the same disinformation is being spread around.

You are not paying to listen to your own music. You can copy your music to your device and listen to it anywhere without any ads. You can let the music service know what music you have and it will remember that data. If I am using a device that does not have my music files on that device, I can stream it. If I stream it and I do not have a music pass, then I will hear ads. You are not paying to listen to your music, you are paying for the bandwidth to stream the files. Along with the pass you get to stream and download music you don't own anywhere you want.

But then again, Apple has a service (iTunes Match) where you have to pay to allow streaming the music you own and upload to their service, or you have iTunes Radio which is ads only, US only, and to listen to music you own, you are forced to listen to those, to use verbiage from above, disgusting ads.

But it is fine because these pay to listen to your own music and forced to listen to disgusting ads is brought to you by Apple. Apple, the we can't do anything wrong company, even if we criticize our competitors for doing it the same way first.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
But then again, Apple has a service (iTunes Match) where you have to pay to allow streaming the music you own and upload to their service, or you have iTunes Radio which is ads only, US only, and to listen to music you own, you are forced to listen to those, to use verbiage from above, disgusting ads.

You are conflating iTunes in the Cloud with iTunes Match. The former is free and uploads all your songs to Apple's servers for download and playback on any device.

iTunes Match is a $25/year service that, instead of only uploading your songs, iTunes will try to match the songs you have in your playlist with a song in the iTunes Music Store. If there is a match, it will download the higher quality, iTMS version rather than uploading and downloading your crap CD ripped version.

iTunes Radio doesn't put the ads in if a song is one in your playlist.

This is incorrect. The ads come when you're playing free streaming radio. You may have selected an artist or songs from the streaming service. When I play my collection, I don't get ads.... yes, I'm on the free version.

This is incorrect. The ads come when you're playing free streaming radio. You may have selected an artist or songs from the streaming service. When I play my collection, I don't get ads.... yes, I'm on the free version.

I won't argue that maybe that's the way the system is supposed to work, but I've personally encountered an issue where, while playing music from local files with cloud streaming turned off, the Music app decided that it was time to play an ad. I flipped the switch for the streaming preference from off to on, and back to off to try and fix it, but the app would still only play one song before trying to play another ad. Needless to say, I kicked it off my computer and switched back to WMP after that experience.

This was a couple versions/UIs ago. They've probably addressed the issue. Still, after having allowed it to occur in the first place, I'm not terribly sympathetic to hear about them getting burned by it.

Magoo said,
im not going to use xbox music as long as they keep putting ads in while i play my own music

Except this doesn't happen.

If you don't have a 'pass/subscription' and play music you do not own, you might encounter ads.

However if you only play your music or have a subscription you never hear ads.

Rosyna said,
If there is a match, it will download the higher quality, iTMS version rather than uploading and downloading your crap CD ripped version.

Holy moley. "Crap CD ripped version"? You're kidding, or deaf. iTunes streaming or lossy compressed download not higher quality than my CD rips.

Rosyna said,

You are conflating iTunes in the Cloud with iTunes Match. The former is free and uploads all your songs to Apple's servers for download and playback on any device.

iTunes Match is a $25/year service that, instead of only uploading your songs, iTunes will try to match the songs you have in your playlist with a song in the iTunes Music Store. If there is a match, it will download the higher quality, iTMS version rather than uploading and downloading your crap CD ripped version.

iTunes Radio doesn't put the ads in if a song is one in your playlist.

No, I specifically separated them into two different products in my responses. But, as PeterTHX pointed out, since you believe that iTunes and streaming uses better than 320Kbps (if ripping to MP3) or lossless (if I am ripping to wav or FLAC), then I put no faith into anything that you write is correct.

Apple has a service (iTunes Match) where you have to pay to allow streaming the music you own and upload to their service

You did not separate the two products. you do not have to pay to upload your songs to iTunes in the Cloud nor do you have to pay to stream them back.

But, as PeterTHX pointed out, since you believe that iTunes and streaming uses better than 320Kbps (if ripping to MP3) or lossless (if I am ripping to wav or FLAC), then I put no faith into anything that you write is correct.

You haven't used iTunes Match, have you?

iTunes Match downloads the entire song, 256Kbps, AAC to your device. It plays it while it downloads.

The iTMS 256kbps AAC version is often created from the masters (The master sound file). You can find more information about the masters at https://www.apple.com/itunes/m...ocs/mastered_for_itunes.pdf

CDs have their quality decreased because labels increase the loudness. Also, studio master files are not often 44.1kHz. Some songs on iTMS are 48kHz.

Lauding that you have lossless versions of CD rips is amusing as hell.

FLAC is lossless. Thinking 256kbps is superior to that is not amusing, it's sad.

The difference between a 44.1kHz and 48kHz sampling rate is negligible and inaudible. The bit resolution is still 16-bit.

CDs have increased loudness...and so have iTunes. The "mastered for iTunes" crap is still a guideline and not indicative of studio masters. If a master has lower levels in iTunes chances are its CD counterpart has as well. One thing about lossy compression is decreased dynamic range. So even if the master is less compressed by the time iTunes gets done with it the benefit has been rendered moot.

Put away the Kool-Aid. Some of us won't swallow that marketing nonsense.

The Xbox Music service is great, but as a music management software it could be better. Hopefully more improvements are coming.

Enron said,
The Xbox Music service is great, but as a music management software it could be better. Hopefully more improvements are coming.

This is the type of comment that may result in the needed improvement. Thanks for this.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
Why don't we get articles about how cumbersome software from other companies for other platforms are?

Because this is an article about Microsoft wanting users of iTunes to switch to what many believe is currently and inferior music management application in Xbox Music.

Enron said,
The Xbox Music service is great, but as a music management software it could be better. Hopefully more improvements are coming.

I would concur. Certainly, I don't find it as fully featured or as pleasant to use as the Zune software. I couldn't even figure out where the store was!

For now, I'll continue to buy music from Amazon and use their player as well. Not sure what I'll do if I get an RT device except to stream music. Preferable via Nokia MixRadio.

MorganX said,

Because this is an article about Microsoft wanting users of iTunes to switch to what many believe is currently and inferior music management application in Xbox Music.

I agree that Xbox music is not perfect, it is definitely not anywhere near Zune software was. But some of the leading competitors are much, much worse, and people keep asking for more articles that are not Microsoft focused.

Edit: I also never hear some of Xbox Music's competitors releasing usage numbers, other than a vague "well X users may use another service, and since we tied them together then we also have X users for the music service." And yet Microsoft is taking the hit for it in this article.

Enron said,
The Xbox Music service is great, but as a music management software it could be better. Hopefully more improvements are coming.

Can't speak to the quality of the service, as I haven't tried it. But as music management software, I am in 100% agreement with you. It could be better. Waaaaay better.

In my personal experience the main problem of ALL of the metro software (Just upgraded to Windows 8.1 from 7 at Christmas time) is that it takes over your ENTIRE SCREEN. Other than that, it looks and performs quite well.

Whomever at Microsoft authorized full screen hijacking of desktop PCs by these Metro apps (cough, Sinofsky, cough) must be fired! (er... resign!)

WhatTheSchmidt said,

I agree that Xbox music is not perfect, it is definitely not anywhere near Zune software was. But some of the leading competitors are much, much worse, and people keep asking for more articles that are not Microsoft focused.

Edit: I also never hear some of Xbox Music's competitors releasing usage numbers, other than a vague "well X users may use another service, and since we tied them together then we also have X users for the music service." And yet Microsoft is taking the hit for it in this article.

You're focusing on the service. I don't use a cloud service. I prefer iTunes and it's dynamic playlist/syncing as opposed to manually having to copy all music to the tablet or phone, then hoping synced Xbox music playlists finds all the mirrored tracks (it does not, most of the time. Never if it doesn't find a match in its cloud database). Add 10 new songs to your library, you have to manually copy those over and again hope the playlists pick them up. Zune and iTunes dynamically sync song files added to playlists, you never have to worry about manually moving your personal files to devices and hoping the synced playlist picks them up. That's my main complaint. I listen to too much music, change playlists too often, and just don't have time for that. Plus, I don't have to do it with iTunes nor did I have to do it with Zune.

MS should have copied Apple. Offer cloud streaming/matching services, but do not "remove" basic music management features to try and force users to only use music from your service to get functionality they're used to having.

If they fix "that" and get the RDP app for Windows Phone released, I'll go back to Windows Phone and shelve my iPhone 5s. Until then, not a chance.

MorganX said,

You're focusing on the service. I don't use a cloud service. I prefer iTunes and it's dynamic playlist/syncing as opposed to manually having to copy all music to the tablet or phone, then hoping synced Xbox music playlists finds all the mirrored tracks (it does not, most of the time. Never if it doesn't find a match in its cloud database). Add 10 new songs to your library, you have to manually copy those over and again hope the playlists pick them up. Zune and iTunes dynamically sync song files added to playlists, you never have to worry about manually moving your personal files to devices and hoping the synced playlist picks them up. That's my main complaint. I listen to too much music, change playlists too often, and just don't have time for that. Plus, I don't have to do it with iTunes nor did I have to do it with Zune.

MS should have copied Apple. Offer cloud streaming/matching services, but do not "remove" basic music management features to try and force users to only use music from your service to get functionality they're used to having.

If they fix "that" and get the RDP app for Windows Phone released, I'll go back to Windows Phone and shelve my iPhone 5s. Until then, not a chance.

People complain that Win8 is a tablet OS. So they developed a tablet app that is more powerful than the one that ships with an iPad, but you are complaining it is not good enough because it does not copy apple and do as much as the desktop app, which supposedly Win8 is not.

Your description of what you want to do is not my experience with either Zune nor iTunes. Yes, iTunes smart playlists are nice, but what good does it do if I need to manually find new songs then drag and drop them onto iTunes for it to know they exist, and then have it freeze for hours while it adds those new songs to the DB? But you say I don't need to worry about this type of thing, so I can't be wrong.

I just had to reset my iPod iTouch, again, because it just forgot that there was music on the device and put all data into the "Other" category. This happens once a month. That is not automatic, and worry free as you like us to think.

As for Remote Desktop, people laughed at Windows Mobile for having a remote desktop client because nobody wants to use such a tiny screen, but now it is a deal breaker?

And don't get me started on that cluster ---- known as Google Play music.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
Snip

You might just be technically incompetent, as iTunes, Zune, and even WMP in Windows 8 do exactly what I described.

The fact that that you have so many problems with Apple products probably explains why you appear to turn any discussion into an Anti-Apple or Apple v. Microsoft one.

I was very specific about the functionality I would like copied from iTunes because switching from Xbox Music to iTunes is the topic of this article.

I could very easily have said copy that functionality from Zune or WMP.

Anthony Tosie said,
Won't happen as long as it's as cumbersome as it currently is.

It can be a PITA and with free services like Pandora with limited commercial ads...I don't see why anyone would pay $10 to use a music service.

MorganX said,

You might just be technically incompetent, as iTunes, Zune, and even WMP in Windows 8 do exactly what I described.

The fact that that you have so many problems with Apple products probably explains why you appear to turn any discussion into an Anti-Apple or Apple v. Microsoft one.

I was very specific about the functionality I would like copied from iTunes because switching from Xbox Music to iTunes is the topic of this article.

I could very easily have said copy that functionality from Zune or WMP.

So you are talking about how great and easy iTunes is, but when something doesn't work right I am just technically incompetent. Isn't the main argument for Apple is you don't need to be a technical genius to make it work?

I have a network with my 45,000+ songs on a drive. I have those music files shared out. When I buy a new song, I copy it to that share. To get iTunes to recognize it, I need to drag and drop it onto iTunes, where adding a dozen or so songs will freeze the UI for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours. THen, yesterday I plug in my iPod iTouch (the same computer I have been using for months, none of that new association stuff) and it tells me there is no music, no apps, no documents, just "Other." So I need to wipe it, again, and then reload it. But I guess that Apple lumping everything together is me being "technically incompetent." We know Apple cannot do anything wrong, it must be everyone else who is just too stupid to use the software that Apple developed specifically for computer stupid people so they can use it.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
Why don't we get articles about how cumbersome software from other companies for other platforms are?

To be fair nobody in their right mind thinks that iTunes isn't a bloated mess that gets even worse and more buggy with every version and needs a major overhaul. No articles necessary.

@techbeck but Xbox Music is like Pandora (free version) but has many more options to purchase music or create specific playlists.

Hambone72 said,

In my personal experience the main problem of ALL of the metro software (Just upgraded to Windows 8.1 from 7 at Christmas time) is that it takes over your ENTIRE SCREEN. (er... resign!)

You know you can resize the Modern UI apps and/or hide them, right? I usually stream my "radio" stations with the app hidden and doing work on the desktop. Sometimes I shrink Xbox Music to a small pane on the right and work on the desktop.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
Why don't we get articles about how cumbersome software from other companies for other platforms are?

Whenever someone asks why the authors don't post about how good the non-Microsoft products and competition is, Microsoft fans go on about how this is "NeoWIN", a Microsoft centric website.

Suddenly though, Microsoft doesn't get painted in the best light, and now you guys want articles telling everyone how bad the competition is?

I guess this is the part where I say... This is NeoWIN, a Microsoft centric website.

dead.cell said,

Whenever someone asks why the authors don't post about how good the non-Microsoft products and competition is, Microsoft fans go on about how this is "NeoWIN", a Microsoft centric website.

Suddenly though, Microsoft doesn't get painted in the best light, and now you guys want articles telling everyone how bad the competition is?

I guess this is the part where I say... This is NeoWIN, a Microsoft centric website.

We get people whining about how Neowin is too Microsoft centered, but when there is a chance for a article about something not Microsoft, then that article cannot be used because it does not paint that non-Microsoft product in the best of light.

Besides, your argument is not valid. A couple days ago, I wrote that a number of prominent Neowin commentators, you would easily recognize their names, who favor Apple used a specific argument and even pointed the person I was debating with to exact examples. I was told that even though those people were well known, any argument one person or a group of people makes cannot be used at a later time. I think the debate was about how an Apple fan can go on and on and on about how Apple just works. But when there is a problem with an Apple product, bringing up that well used quote is invalid because it was just a small number of people that repeat it, and they do not represent the Neowin community.

So only a few people use that quote, it does not represent the Neowin community, and it does not accurate reflect how people think.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
We get people whining about how Neowin is too Microsoft centered, but when there is a chance for a article about something not Microsoft, then that article cannot be used because it does not paint that non-Microsoft product in the best of light.

I'd believe that, if it were true. You can give me anecdotal evidence until you're blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that for every one example you may find where an individual is upset that the competition is only being painted in a negative light, you will find dozens of posts the will dog that same company, even if they don't use their products.

Personally, I find it upsetting that we can't be critical of Windows or Microsoft products, you know, products that are used by the MAJORITY of people without someone trying to tell me how bad Apple is, or Sony, or whomever. What does that have to do with the products we use? What does iTunes have to do with me?

Not a goddamn thing.

dead.cell said,

I'd believe that, if it were true. You can give me anecdotal evidence until you're blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that for every one example you may find where an individual is upset that the competition is only being painted in a negative light, you will find dozens of posts the will dog that same company, even if they don't use their products.

Personally, I find it upsetting that we can't be critical of Windows or Microsoft products, you know, products that are used by the MAJORITY of people without someone trying to tell me how bad Apple is, or Sony, or whomever. What does that have to do with the products we use? What does iTunes have to do with me?

Not a goddamn thing.

Criticism of Windows, to me, is fine. It is when it is criticism that is false and the Microsoft haters believe it. Take a look at the comment just below this one. We have a person claiming that they have to pay to listen to their own music when using a Microsoft product. As of right now, 11 people have upvoted that comment when it has no basis in fact. And then I compare and contrast with an Apple product, and according to you that is bad. People seem to get upset when I make these comparisons. I don't make the comparison to try to smear Apple, Sony, etc. because I use many of the services from those companies. I do it to show how foolish they are, they will proudly announce that they use product X, not Y from Microsoft, condemn Microsoft for doing something when X does it the same way.

The problem is that they will ignore that X does it the same way, and keep on criticizing Microsoft while looking the other way for their favorite.

WhatTheSchmidt said,
The problem is that they will ignore that X does it the same way, and keep on criticizing Microsoft while looking the other way for their favorite.

Because Microsoft fans don't do the same?

Most companies will take advantage of whatever edge you give them. This is why we must always be critical. Yes, I'm against being critical when there's no reason for it, but if something is bad, saying "Well, X is bad too," neither helps nor resolves the issue.

dead.cell said,

Because Microsoft fans don't do the same?

Most companies will take advantage of whatever edge you give them. This is why we must always be critical. Yes, I'm against being critical when there's no reason for it, but if something is bad, saying "Well, X is bad too," neither helps nor resolves the issue.

It exposes the person as not being truthful and allowing their emotions to show rather than fact. Rather than trying to explore, to find out more information, and then using that information to decide what is best to use, you have threads like below trashing Xbox Music without any truth behind it. Would somebody reading that take their word, think that they need to buy their music a second time and go with something else? And being this falsehood has been talked about multiple times on Neowin, gets 11 Likes in this thread, and in other threads people have claimed that the competition does not do ads for streaming (when it does), it absolutely needs to be pointed out that lies are being told all around. But I suppose that we should just let people spread false information without being challenged.

willgill said,

You know you can resize the Modern UI apps and/or hide them, right? I usually stream my "radio" stations with the app hidden and doing work on the desktop. Sometimes I shrink Xbox Music to a small pane on the right and work on the desktop.

I know that I can send them to a side pane. But that's kind of a pain. For example... when I click on a song from my music collection, I am immediately transported to a 27" full screen music app experience. Even WMP is better than that.

I'll give it a try. But how is that any improvement whatsoever over the standard windowed experience? I don't see how snapping to the side is any better than just using a smaller, moveable window. It's a worse experience for me personally. I do think that it would be better on a tablet though.

Sure, I am sure they would like that, but this video doesn't say that. The title is a little misleading. It should say "Microsoft makes importing an iTunes library easy on Surface 2"

Apple's iTunes lock-in is a big deal for those who have a lot of music.