Xbox Music, Microsoft’s Zune-replacement streaming music player that launched last October for Windows 8 devices (PCs, tablets, phones) as well as the Xbox 360 is finally available to the rest of the OS-verse through browsers. You can check it out now at music.xbox.com, though note that you’ll need an Xbox Music Pass subscription — plus Xbox Live, if you’re using it on the Xbox 360 — to ride the rides. You’ll also need to disable your Flash-blocker if you run one, or at least I had to.
I’m not an Xbox Music Pass subscriber, which causes the service to prompt you to sign up as soon as you sign in. The risk-free upside: Microsoft’s giving away 30-day trial Xbox Music Pass subs for nothing but your credit card info, after which you’ll be charged the standard $10 a month (a one-month pass runs $10, a year-long pass runs just under $100), though Microsoft lets you short-circuit the automatic renewal once you’ve logged in and fiddled with your settings (you can hit the kill switch at checkout, too).
I ran into turbulence in Safari after I’d signed up, receiving the error screen “Sad but true: your browser isn’t equipped to work with our site,” followed by a list of minimum requirements. I met all of them — OS X 10.8.4 (minimum 10.6), Safari 6.0.5 (minimum 5.1) and Flash 11.7-dot-something-something (minimum 11). Hopping over to Chrome solved the problem, serving up a resizable Windows 8.1-esque interface.
One of the unexpected perks: When I signed into my Xbox Live account on my laptop and my wife’s, I was able to stream music simultaneously on both devices (the same song at the same time, even). Whether by design or accident, it looks like Xbox Music presently lets you have multiple sessions up at once (unlike Spotify, which requires a unique membership for each active session). You can search for new music, check your collection (sorted by albums, artists or songs), craft playlists that’ll synchronize with your other Windows 8 devices and control playback from a bottom bar with standard controls.
“Content may vary over time,” says Microsoft in the fine print, which just means Xbox Music is as vulnerable to licensing shifts as any other streaming vendor (peddling audio or video content). It’s a problem the industry’s going to have to solve, long term, before users think seriously about relinquishing physical media altogether.