It was only last week that iPhone, iPad and Windows users first got a taste of the hit new Apple Music service featuring live DJs, curated playlists and reasonably priced music streaming. This week Microsoft, makers of he Xbox One, Surface and more announced a new Apple Music rival of their own. Called Groove Music, it’ll replace the company’s older offerings and feature prominently in many of Microsoft’s offerings.
Microsoft announced Groove Music in a post on its Blogging Windows website yesterday. The company says that it’s calling the service Groove because that “describes what people feel and do with music, and is more intuitive” for Windows 10 customers.
Groove Music effectively replaces Xbox Music, just as Xbox Music replaced Microsoft’s earlier offerings. The change in name should clear up confusion about the service. Some users believed that in order to use Xbox Music you needed an Xbox One or Xbox 360 console, according to Microsoft. In actuality, Xbox Music had apps on iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Windows PCs and the web. The Xbox Music Pass subscription service that the company started back in 2006 will continue with Groove Music unchanged, it seems.
All told, it seems like leaks might have forced Microsoft to reveal the Groove Music service early. Yesterday’s announcement indicated that Groove will build on top the new generation of Windows apps Microsoft already had, but Microsoft didn’t announce a single new feature. According to the post, we could see some new feature changes and the Groove name surface publicly in the next version of Windows 10 Insider Preview that Microsoft says is coming this week. The Windows 10 Insider Program lets users at home tryout the new apps and services coming with Windows 10 before they arrive for everyone. That app doesn’t have any new music discovery features per se, but does have an improved design. Users can browse and download music in Groove for Windows 10 if they have an Music Pass, but purchasing music takes users to Microsoft’s new Windows Store.
By comparison Apple Music is feature heavy. Arriving with the iOS 8.4 update, Apple Music offers a handful of different ways to discover music. Curated playlists – like the one’s Microsoft’s service used to have – offer a chance to get recommendations from music taste makers. A recommendation engine I Apple Music asks users for information about themselves and find them music based on what they say. A Radio feature lets Apple Music stream related songs picked by the service and Beats 1 is a full-on worldwide radio broadcast. Microsoft will have to do more than what it’s doing now if it hopes to challenge Apple Music or even older industry favorites like Spotify, who have millions of users.
Groove Music has roots in the Zune Software and services that launched along with the Zune MP3 and video players back in 2009. The devices allowed users to share music with each other using built-in hardware and the Zune Social Music service. Users who had a Zune Music Pass could then continue listening to that music as much as they wanted. Microsoft hasn’t talked much about the transition from it’s older services to Groove Music. It’s likely that the switch for Xbox Music Pass members will be seamless, but the Zune Software and music downloaded with Zune Music Pass are already not compatible with Microsoft’s current apps, services and smartphones. The company could use the opportunity to draw the line between past and future and finally stop offering Music Pass to Zune customers.
We don’t yet know when Groove will launch. Presumably, it’ll be among the things that Microsoft talks about when it finalizes Windows 10 on July 29th.
Xbox Video, the dedicated movie and television service that also owes its existence to Zune is getting a new name too. It’ll simply be called TV & Movies.