The second component is the Xbox Music Pass, a subscription service. For $10 per month, you get streaming access to those 30 million songs, and can also download them to your devices for offline listening. (If you cancel your subscription, you'll no longer have access to them.) Your playlists, music and albums sync across your devices. There's also a Pandora-like Smart DJ feature.
In addition, there's a free version of the subscription service that lets you listen to unlimited streaming music for six months for free, although you'll have to listen to ads. After six months, you're limited to 10 hours per month of listening.
The Xbox Music app and subscription service don't get nearly as much publicity as competitors like iTunes or Spotify. Despite that, though, it's a winner, and is good enough to make people forget the ill-begotten Zune digital music player -- if you're not one of the users still forced to use it, of course.
Video, like digital music, is in the midst of a historic transition. Plenty of people still buy or rent DVDs, but there's no doubt that the future of video is in streaming services. At the moment, Netflix is dominant in this space, but each of the big computing ecosystems we examine here is trying to make gains as well. In this section we look at the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Amazon doesn't have a stranglehold on video like it does on books, but still, the video portion of its entertainment ecosystem is substantial and growing. As with everything else at Amazon, there's a tremendously large collection of videos and TV shows to buy as DVDs. There's an excellent selection of classic movies, foreign movies and independent movies. So if you're looking for popular Hollywood movies, old classics or for movies of directors such as the Polish-born Krzysztof Kieslowski, you'll likely find what you want.
Amazon has moved beyond physically delivering movies, and is pushing its Instant Video service, which lets you stream from a selection of 140,000 videos on a pay-per-play basis, as well as its Amazon Prime Instant Video, which lets you stream as many of them as you want as part of a $79/year Prime subscription. You can watch on a variety of devices, including the Kindle HD.
There's more as well. Following Netflix's lead, Amazon is producing its own TV shows as a way to draw people to its streaming video service. A half-dozen have already been announced, and they're not going to be low-budget, no-name affairs. Pulitzer Prize-winning Garry Trudeau is writing one of them (a comedy called Alpha House), another is being written by Big Bang Theory actors Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie, and another will be a satirical comedy about the news by The Onion.
The iTunes Store offers movies in 109 countries, and there are over 60,000 titles available. Selection varies by region. In the United States, iTunes accounted for 65 percent of feature-length movie downloads, and 67 percent of TV shows sold in 2012, according to NPD.
Videos are generally available on iTunes the day they are released to DVD. Many titles come with iTunes Extras, which can include interactive features, images and other bonus materials. You can also rent movies; rentals must be played within 30 days, and you have only 24 hours to finish once you begin watching.
Videos come with DRM encoded into the file, but the DRM-restricted content can be shared among up to five computers. iTunes allows an unlimited number of iOS devices to carry the content as long as they're synced up to any one of the five computers authorized to iTunes.