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November 9, 2009

Microsoft launches MSN Music beta in the UK

Posted by David Hunter at 8:50 PM ET.

Here’s an odd duck – Microsoft last week launched a music download  and streaming service beta in the United Kingdom called MSN Music:

As first revealed by The Telegraph, in July 2009, the download service will go live tomorrow in beta. However, the streaming side of the service will only be available to “several thousand” people invited to test the product.

MSN Music had been scheduled to go live by the end of July. However, the product “took longer than they thought it would to get it to the high quality they wanted”, according to Peter Bale, executive producer of MSN.

Microsoft has signed deals with the four major music labels: EMI, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony BMG, securing around one million tracks for the launch ready to download. Comparatively iTunes has over 10 million tracks available and 7digital has over eight million tracks in its catalogue. The Telegraph understands independent record labels have yet to be signed.

The service will sit within the ‘Music’ section of MSN and be promoted across the portal. When asked why Microsoft was making a move into the highly competitive world of digital music services, Mr Bale replied: “This shouldn’t be seen as a major company-wide strategic move. We are replacing a service that used to be on MSN a year ago and the service is very much confined to MSN.

Easy for Mr. Bale to say. A more likely rationale is that MSN Music is a stopgap service until the Zune Marketplace finally gets beyond North America:

The download store will be run on the same technology Microsoft uses to power the Zune marketplace in the US. Zune is the company’s music player, which is only available in the US, and similar to Apple’s iTunes, it has its own music download online store. However, Mr Bale said the company’s decision to use the same technology for this service was a logical move and not “necessarily a pre-cursor to Zune launching in the UK”.

I guess they will have to leave the lights on waiting for the Zune to show up.

All of this is more or less understandable except for choosing the MSN Music name which conjures up unpleasant memories of the last MSN Music service which was killed by the Zune in 2006.

Filed under Apple, Argo, Coopetition, MSN, MSN Music, Microsoft, Zune

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