RealTime IT News

Microsoft Tunes Up MSN

Microsoft launched the beta version of MSN Music, calling it a "free, easy way for music consumers to search for, listen to and discover music they like"

The move comes only days after Real Networks Inc. entered into a venture with media giants AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG and EMI Group plc to create a platform for digital music subscription services.

MSN will use Keynote Systems' SLA Perspective Streaming Edition to provide streaming media measurements and service expertise for the new venture.

Microsoft said that using MSN Music's "sounds-like" search technology, customers (users must register) can discover new music and listen to near-CD-quality stations featuring artists, songs or albums similar to their favorites as well as based on their mood.

Results are dynamically programmed "based on a combination of machine-based programming and human input from MSN musicologists, known as "groovers," who are experts in all styles of music, Microsoft said.

What you can't do, apparently, is download a song, a la Napster, or even request a particular song to be played. It's more like Internet radio. What also appears to be lacking, at least at launch, is an e-commerce element, but Microsoft has plans to remedy that.

"In the future, we will build on this solid foundation by offering new options and features such as personalized content and subscription services " said Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of MSN.

The Real Networks "MusicNet" venture will provide a bank of downloadable and streaming music available across a number of networks, including Real Networks and AOL. MusicNet will license its platform to companies seeking to sell music subscription services under their own brands.

Financial terms of Microsoft's deal with Keynote were not disclosed, but Keynote said it "will design an effective SLA (service level agreement) to ensure that all performance benchmarks are met with content delivery network (CDN) chosen by MSN."

"We are focused on becoming a driving force in delivering high-quality music services to consumers through MSN," said Rex Smith, vice president of operations for MSN . "Keynote's experience designing solutions that benchmark and manage the performance of Web sites makes it an integral part of bringing the best possible MSN Music experience to consumers."