Perhaps you've noticed, but competition in the online radio space has heated up lately. This month alone, tech giants Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)
and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)
released significant updates to their respective online music presences.
So what do these new or updated music services look like, and what are their implications for this growth market?
Apple, of course, was the among the first-movers in digital music when it launched iTunes in 2001, and it recently unveiled the most aggressive advancement to iTunes in some time in its iTunes Radio service, which made its debut in the United States last week.
The service most closely resembles
online radio pioneer Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P)
. Both services come in free and paid versions, with each company's free version being supported by advertising. However, the pricing differs slightly for the two companies' paid versions. Pandora's streaming service will set you back $36 for an entire year, while iTunes Radio's paid version costs only $25 a year and includes iTunes Match cloud services.
If early indications count for anything, the service stands to become immensely successful. After being released late last week, Apple gave word that iTunes Radio had already registered 11 million users. This is just a fraction of the 575 million iTunes users that already have credit cards linked to their accounts, implying the service's future growth potential could still just be getting under way. No matter how you slice it, though, Apple is clearly doubling down on online music.
Video games meet music
Turning to Microsoft, the software giant launched its Xbox Music service nearly a year ago, but recently took perhaps its most aggressive step to date by making Xbox Music available on both Android and iOS mobile operating systems. And while the odds are against much traction across platforms, its release does indicate that Microsoft is serious about expanding its presence in digital music.
The service itself is something of a hybrid, incorporating both free and paid subscriber tiers. The free streaming service is once again supported by advertisements, but features a cap to user listening hours after six months. Pandora once imposed a 40-hour monthly listening limit for its free users as well, but dropped the restriction last month.