Microsoft launches free Xbox Music on Web today

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Microsoft is offering its Xbox Music streaming service for free on the Web, even to those who don't use Windows 8.

The expansion beyond Windows 8 devices and Xbox game consoles starting today is intended to bring new customers into the software giant's devices and services, and could help it compete with other digital music offerings such as Pandora, Spotify and iTunes.

This comes after Microsoft announced it would buy the mobile phone handset manufacturing business of Nokia for $7.2 billion and that CEO Steve Ballmer will step down in 12 months.

Xbox Music allows people to choose from 30 million tracks and stream them for free with ads. The service sells downloadable tracks that have been kept off streaming services by artists or labels.

The thinking is if new consumers enjoy the free experience, some might pay $10 a month for the Xbox Music Pass, which allows playback on mobile phones and Microsoft's game console, Xbox 360, and its upcoming version, Xbox One. Microsoft is also launching apps for iPhones and Android devices that will allow paying subscribers to access Xbox Music. Starting Nov. 22, Xbox One users also will be able to simultaneously play games while listening to Xbox Music, which isn't offered on the Xbox 360.