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MSN Music relaunches with free streaming

MSN Music has relaunched its download store, and introduced into private beta a free streaming service

Microsoft has revamped its MSN Music service, with free streaming and the return of downloads.

MSN goes up against Spotify and other similar services. Unlike most other services, MSN offers free, ad-supported streaming. Unlike Spotify, ads are visual so there's no interruption to your listening pleasure.

Downloads make a comeback after being pulled earlier this year. Tracks cost around 79p or £7.99 for an album. You have to buy credits to download, with credit packs costing £8 for 10. All four majors are on board.

You'll need a Windows Live ID to get involved. The service is only in public beta today, but we were able to log in and buy credits. It's not without bugs: when we tried to listen to the Fantastic Mr Fox soundtrack, Windows Media Player opened and started playing The Ballad of Davy Crockett. We're also constantly prompted to install a WMP Firefox plugin.

The service may launch publicly this year, but early 2010 is more likely. The MSN homepage has also been redesigned to complement Bing, with more white space and a redrawn logo. Again, this is currently only available to a handful of users.