The feature arriving with the new service, which is called Xbox Music, puts Microsoft in the ranks of Spotify, Pandora and other ad-based music streaming companies. It will also give Microsoft a selling point over Apple, which dominates sales of downloaded music but has yet to offer free streaming.
Here’s the catch: only PCs and tablets running Windows 8 and Windows RT, the operating system due out Oct. 26, will have access to the free streaming feature of Xbox Music.
Xbox Music is expected to supplant Microsoft’s Zune music service, which shares the name of the ill-starred portable music players Microsoft stopped selling last year. Besides hardware running the new operating systems, the service will be available on Xbox 360 videogame consoles and handsets running Windows Phone 8.