Microsoft Closing MSN Music Service

Microsoft has decided to shut down its MSN Music downloads site by mid-month, transitioning it to an entertainment portal. In addition, the company will redirect those looking for music downloads to either RealNetwork's Rhapsody site or its upcoming Zune music service.

Those who have purchased songs from MSN Music will still be able to play, transfer and burn them after the service closes. Those with gift certificate balances or other credits will be able to request a refund after November 14.

The closing of MSN Music seems to be intended to clear the way for Zune, which will launch the same day. Neither is the future of PlaysForSure clear; although Microsoft is directing owners of compatible players to other providers.

"I'm surprised Microsoft didn't try to offer something like replacement for existing content in either Rhapsody or Zune formats," JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg said. "Either way, it shows the problems of picking the wrong format in a format war, especially when one format owns 75% of the market."

At its launch in September 2004, Microsoft touted MSN Music as superior to iTunes due to its compatibility with a wide range of players. Apple took the opposite approach, saying it would fail because it was incompatible with the iPod.

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