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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) are all working on music services they hope will help them cut into Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) share of the digital music business, which is currently dominated by its iTunes store.
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Microsoft is planning a service that will combine Spotify-like streaming with song download and online-storage capabilities like Apple’s iTunes, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The Xbox Music service will be available later this year, with the company charging a monthly or annual fee for streaming and access to songs stored in the cloud. The service will be available on the Xbox video game console and Windows personal computers and mobile devices.
On Wednesday, Google unveiled the Nexus Q, a wireless streaming media player similar to the Apple TV set-top box. Like its newly announced tablet, the Nexus 7, the Nexus Q sphere will link to the Google Play music and video download service. The Nexus Q can link to Android-based tablets and smartphones and stream their content.
The $299 Nexus Q will be available in July, when Amazon hopes to launch its own challenge to Apple’s cloud music service, according to Bloomberg. Amazon has reportedly reached agreements with the four major U.S. record companies to start a music service that allows users to store songs on a remote service and access them online. According to people familiar with the matter, Amazonwill launch the service in the U.S. in the first week of July, with Europe availability shortly thereafter.
Apple isn’t taking these challenges sitting down — the company has been rolling out its iTunes service in various new markets, particularly in Asia, and is reportedly preparing the biggest iTunes update since the store’s debut in 2003. Those updates, according to Bloomberg, will be unveiled before the end of the year, and are thought to include better integration of iCloud so that users can access their music seamlessly and efficiently across different Apple devices.
There will also be more social elements, with Apple planning new features for sharing music, Bloomberg reported. Apple will likely integrate iTunes more tightly with social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It is currently negotiating with major record labels for rights that can let users listen to a song sent to them from a friend for free. Apple is also reportedly in talks with media labels to add more multimedia features, including band photos and videos.
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