aNewDomain.net—Windows 8 comes with a built-in app for music called Xbox Music. This is possibly one of the most underused apps ever created because many people think that you need an Xbox to use this app. As has often happened in the past, Microsoft’s naming conventions can confuse the average user. The good news: You don’t need an Xbox to use the Xbox Music app.
The Xbox Music app is quite full-featured and can be used on any Windows 8 device. The illustrations and instructions shown here are from a Windows 8 computer. A Windows 8 tablet or phone will be similar. Start it by simply tapping or clicking the orange Music tile on the Windows Start screen and sign in with a Microsoft account.
The central area of the screen is the “Now Playing” area, where you can quickly listen to the music of your choice. You can choose any artist and the app will instantly start playing their music. Right now, this service is free with occasional ads. Since Microsoft has converted its Zune music to the Xbox music, there is no waiting period for them to collect the necessary music rights. They have more than 30 million tracks. You can also subscribe to an ad-free version for $9.99 a month.
When Windows 8 made its debut last October, Microsoft promised unlimited streaming for six months, indicating that they may throttle that down to something like 10 hours free streaming after that time, but no recent announcements about this have been made.
If you have a large collection of music or you would rather purchase and own your music, the Xbox Music app can handle that as well. On the left side of the screen, (swipe right or move the scroll bar to the left) you will see all the music that you have on your computer. You can play any song or album and can easily create playlists. You can also purchase songs and albums in MP3 format from the Xbox store.
To get your music into the Xbox app, just open Windows Explorer and copy your music files to your My Music library. Any music in this folder will appear in the app.
Xbox Music also lets you play taste-based music like Pandora through its Smart DJ feature. Just click on New Smart DJ from the main screen and choose an artist. It will immediately begin playing music from that artist as well as similar songs. There is no way to rate songs, as you can in Pandora, but there is a way to view the songs and choose what you want to play.
If you do have an Xbox, you can stream music to it from your PC and try out a few other neat Microsoft tricks. But if you don’t own an Xbox, don’t let that stop you from using the Xbox app which offers a solid music streaming and purchasing experience.
Special note: Microsoft is constantly updating and adding to this app, so be sure to launch the Microsoft store and look under Settings to grab the updates when they are available.
Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior editor at aNewDomain.net covering tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger, +SandyBerger on Google+, and www.facebook.com/sandyberger on Facebook.Tags: Downtime,Home,Lifestyle,Mobile Apps,Software,Technology