Microsoft have made a beta version of their new music store available to the public. The store is entirely browser-based and does not require a separate client like iTunes. The iTunes store has many more features, but then it’s an application – taken together with Windows Media 10, the MSN Store becomes much more useful than on its own.
Artist pages have a couple of features not seen on previous music stores – like “Buy Tickets” and “Find Lyrics”, but these just trigger web searches, showing that the store is integrated with MSN’s search facilities. Microsoft are hoping to make more use of this integration with the new version of MSN Search in the future – searching for bands on their search site will return direct links to buy music.
Songs have ratings on the page, on the same line as “Buy track” – and providing you trust strangers’ opinions, might be a useful feature for the easily swayed. Previews are available, but there’s no progress bar to tell you how far through the track or preview you are.
The selection of music is pretty much as expected, though there are a few bands that you won’t get on iTunes – Kraftwerk, for example. The much-hyped internet début of the Beatles is yet to happen.
Naturally, all tracks are sold in WMA format, version 10 of which is out tomorrow, though the full version of the store itself is not expected to launch now until October.