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Microsoft unveils Aussie music subscription service

Microsoft unveils music subscription service, movie downloads and online photo prints ordering at Australian Vista launch event.

The BigPond Movies service, as seen within Vista's Media Center.

Australia will soon have its first online music subscription service, with Microsoft today announcing a partnership with Sanity Digital at the software maker's official Vista launch event in Sydney.

The service -- which will charge users a monthly subscription fee to receive access to Sanity's one million-strong song catalogue -- will be launched sometime in April. No specific pricing or launch date has been released. Sanity Music CEO Greg Milne, speaking at the Vista launch, said the service's monthly price would be "less than a couple of CDs".

The online music service wasn't the only new offering Microsoft trotted out for the Australian launch of Vista. The company also announced a movie download service in partnership with BigPond Movies and an online print service in conjunction with Kodak.

The Sanity Music service will be integrated into Windows Media Player 11, and will offer both subscription and purchase options for users. Australia is the first country outside of the US to receive a subscription model. For a set monthly fee, subscribers will be able to choose any song in the Sanity catalogue to download and play, although only 300 tracks per month can be accessed. While no further details have been unveiled about copy protection measures for the Australian service, US music subscription services freeze a user's ability to play songs if the subscription lapses. US subscription services also do not allow the burning of downloaded music to CDs.

Music downloaded from the Sanity Music service can only be downloaded to portable music players that are either Windows Vista Certified or carry the "PlaysForSure" logo. Current international models include devices from Creative, Samsung, iRiver and SanDisk. Apple iPods are not compatible with the service.

Telstra has also gotten onto the Vista bandwagon, with the BigPond Movies service being integrated into the new operating system's Media Center feature. The service, which is available from today, has more than 2000 movies in its catalogue, although certain viewing restrictions -- such as how long a movie will be stored on a user's hard drive and how much time they have to watch the film -- will apply.

The final new integrated Vista feature launched today was a partnership with the Print@Kodak service, which has been built into Vista's Photo Gallery application. The Print@Kodak service allows Vista users to order physical prints from Kodak from within Photo Gallery, which will be delivered to a user's home address.