After kicking around some questions in yesterday’s little exercise in speculation, Microsoft has come clean: it is indeed renaming Xbox Music to Groove, and Xbox Music Pass to Groove Music Pass.
To be clear, this is a straightforward renaming/rebranding and Microsoft isn’t really adding or removing features from the base service, the various apps, or the subscription-based Music Pass service. And yes, this is the second time Microsoft has rebranded this stuff, which started life as Zune and Zune Music Pass, respectively.
So there’s no bad news here, per se, though of course some will lament yet another rebranding of a set of services that barely anyone will ever use anyway. But as Joe Belfiore pointed out on Twitter, Microsoft’s decision to use Xbox branding on these services was misguided, and many people ignored them (allegedly) because they thought they needed an Xbox console to use them.
My opinion? I like it. Xbox Music was the wrong name, and since Microsoft already owns the Groove name—which it acquired along with Ray Ozzie several years back—there’s nothing weird to worry about. Groove has a nice connotation for music, obviously. And it’s a warmer, friendlier brand than the metallic and cold Xbox brand.
Groove will first appear in app form in a new Windows 10 build that Microsoft says it will deliver this week (so potentially as soon as today). This isn’t a big deal, as it’s just the current Music app renamed to Groove. (or to Groove Music, as the screenshot indicates. Hard to say.) It will then presumably be pushed to Windows 10 Mobile, Android, iOS and the web.
Microsoft indicates there are some new features in the Groove (Music) app for Windows 10, but I’m pretty sure they’re all present in the current build: pinch zoom, dragging tracks into playlists, hover playback controls on the taskbar icon, a dark/light theme choice, and right-click pinning of albums to your Start menu.
Groove Music Pass likewise isn’t changing much: for $99.99 a year or $9.99 per month, you get access to Microsoft’s 40+ million song collection on up to four devices. You can create custom radio stations based on your favorite songs, albums and artists, which actually is sort of new: today you can only create these playlists based on artists.
You can learn more about Groove on the new Groove web site. Though, as noted, there isn’t much to learn. It’s just a rebranding.
On a related note, Xbox Video is being rebranded as well to … Movies & TV. It’s unclear how this will impact the web version of the service—that is, where the new URL will be—or whether Microsoft plans to bring this service to Android or iOS. (Today, Xbox Video is available on Windows, Windows Phone, web, and Xbox consoles only.)
UPDATE: Here’s an alternate “hero” graphic. 🙂