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Microsoft Developing New Music/Video Service

While Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices (E&D) unit is reportedly cranking up its development team to work on next Xbox console, the company is also hiring developers to work on a project called Ventura. According to sources close to the project, Ventura will focus on "music and video delivery and consumption," and will likely include recommendations, ratings and comments from users.

"The team is a tight group of music and video lovers that create services and experiences revolving around music\video discovery and consumption," reads a job description from a listing uncovered by ZDNet. "We are not afraid to try new things in the name of pushing the bleeding edge of technology."

"Think large scale. Think Azure," the job listing added.

As pointed out by Business Insider, Ventura will be Microsoft's third attempt to establish a successful service in this particular area. The company's first venture was through the acquisition of MongoMusic for $65 million back in 2000. At the time, the studio was building a music recommendation engine similar to the Music Genome Project used by Pandora. However the MSN group reportedly "squandered" the opportunity to compete with Pandora after the acquisition, and the technology "went nowhere."

Microsoft attempted to enter the sector again with the launch of the Zune service and the Zune player in 2006. The service pushed the idea of sharing music you liked with friends also using Zune, allowing them to check out your favorites and to make comments. A Zune Pass subscription added the ability for friends to listen to songs simultaneously. But Microsoft didn't sell enough Zune players for the service to be useful, thus Zune never really caught on.

As of this writing, consumers can download the Zune client and purchase movies, TV shows and music just as they would with Apple's iTunes. The Zune website also provides socialization features, allowing users to tweet on Twitter and "Like" on Facebook from everywhere on "Share the love for all your favorite music and movies beginning with Lady Gaga's latest single, Born This Way," the website reads.

Additionally, the monthly Zune Pass grants unlimited access to music that can be streamed or downloaded on a PC, Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7 smartphone, or Zune HD device. The service also includes ten extra songs that consumers can keep "forever." The actual downloadable Zune client features a social section, but seemingly remains locked to those with a Windows Live and/or Zune account.

Currently it's unknown how or when Microsoft's Ventura service will launch. It's speculated that it may open its doors as a standalone Web site or as downloadable application. It may also become part of another Microsoft product like the current Zune platform, Xbox Live, Games for Windows – LIVE, or the Windows Media Player.

Will Ventura be the next step in Zune's evolution, or a rival to Pandora?