Xbox, Zune updates offer free music, games

Microsoft has introduced its new upgraded Xbox Experience for Xbox Live. New features in this release include streaming of TV shows and films through Netflix (in the US, so far), the ability to install games to the HDD, an avatar system, and the “Community Games platform”.

In related news, the company also introduced its new Zune Pass Music subscription model, offering subscribers to the all-you-can-eat music service the chance to keep ten songs each month on a permanent basis (ie, the songs won’t stop working when you can’t pay your subscription).

Agreements have been signed between Microsoft and EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group (UMG) and Warner Music Group, as well as independent distributors INgrooves, Independent Online Distribution Alliance and The Orchard for the new service. Zune will soon offer over 90 percent of its music in the MP3 format.

“The way people consume music has changed. With the shift to digital from CDs, it is more challenging than ever to offer the right mix of deep content, music discovery and economic value,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune at Microsoft. “People want the freedom to listen to whatever they want across millions of songs, combined with the confidence that they can keep their favorite tracks forever.”

We still don’t think the new software and accompanying price cut will do much for sales of the second-tier digital player.

Returning to Xbox Experience, some initial launch problems appear now to have been resolved, though critics note that Sony Pictures Entertainment seems to have denied Microsoft permission to offer many of its films on-demand through the new service.

Two new games include karaoke/music-related title, ‘Lips’ and movie-related game, ‘You’re in the movies’. By the end of this month, Xbox 360 will reach another industry-defining milestone: 25 million Xbox 360 consoles sold worldwide.

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