3. Microsoft's Pandora Play
Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) could have put Pandora (P - Get Report) out of its misery with its entrance into the Internet music business. But instead of burying the money-bleeding streaming service, it only nicked it.
Hey, what do you expect from the company that brings a Zune to a knife fight?
Shares of Pandora sank 3.5% on Monday to $9 after Microsoft announced that its new Xbox Music service will offer free, advertising-supported songs for computer and tablet users. Microsoft said it will charge users $9.99 a month for mobile phone access and the ability to stream live on their Xbox consoles. Shares of Microsoft rose 1% to $29.50 on the news."The launch of Xbox Music is a milestone in simplifying digital music on every type of device and on a global scale," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft in a press release. Right now there are 30 million tracks on Xbox Music, which Microsoft says is on par with iTunes. Wait a second there Donny boy. You haven't conquered every type of device on the globe yet, just your own Windows-based world. And right now, that's not saying much considering there are far more iPhones and iPads out there than Xboxes. As TheStreet's own Chris Ciaccia points out, if Microsoft really wanted to jump into the streaming business with both feet, "it would have made the service platform agnostic immediately, and charged for an ad-free experience, similar to what Pandora and Spotify do now." Unfortunately, apps for iOS and Android won't be available for a while, so most listeners will be able to play tunes on their Xbox consoles once Windows 8 arrives later this month, but that's about it. No big deal. It's not like anybody listens to music outside their living room, right? Wrong. Clearly Mister Softee is once again trying to play hardball and force users onto their hardware -- and away from Apple's ubiquitous devices. And if there is anything users hate, it's being told what to do. Unless, of course, it's Apple calling the tune. Last month Pandora's stock, which only remains aloft because more than half the shares have been sold short, plummeted 17% on the mere rumor that Apple was launching its own streaming service. Forget Microsoft's mincing. If Apple ever decides to put Pandora in a box, it's going to be a pine one.
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