What is Groove Music Pass and what does it have to do with Xbox Music?

Windows 10 certainly marks a lot of big shifts for Microsoft when it launches later in July. Whether it is the upgrade model, new features, or Universal Windows Apps, the Windows of 2015 is a very different beast from the past.

The branding behind Xbox Music has been speculated as shifting with Windows 10 due to downplaying of its name and other clues such as 'Microsoft Music' being referenced. However, now a mention of 'Groove Music Pass' has been observed in the latest release of Windows 10 and it raises even more questions.

Phone Companion in Windows 10

A Groovy Phone Companion App

The Phone Companion app is used to connect your Windows Phone, Android or iOS device to your Windows 10 PC. The app lets you sync your device and also access many Microsoft services, including OneNote, Skype, and Music. The description for Music though has a very interesting reference just discovered:

"For access to millions of songs, unlimited streaming on all your devices, and no ads check out Groove Music Pass."

Groove Music Pass

Clicking the hyperlink to Groove Music pass redirects you to the current Microsoft Xbox Music Pass page.

Groove Music Windows

Entertaining Possibilities

Windows Central has reached out to Microsoft regarding the referenced name change and is awaiting a response. Nonetheless, there are a few possibilities of why the Phone Companion app references Groove Music instead of Xbox Music:

  1. Nothing to see here: It is merely a placeholder and does not mean anything. Chalk it up to being a beta build.
  2. Name Change: Microsoft is dropping Xbox Music in favor of Groove Music branding for Windows 10
  3. Acquisition: Microsoft has picked up Zikera, the young startup music company in Montréal, QC who created Groove: Smart Music Player, an app on iOS and Windows 8.1

Zikera is a small startup located in Quebec, Canada. Their app, Groove: Smart Music Player, is powered by Last.FM and acts as a virtual front-end DJ for your music. The app scans your library and creates curated playlists based on your preference. The Groove app is available on iOS and Windows 8.1 and maintains a respectable 4.1 rating (out of 5) from reviews.

Download Groove: Smart Music Player for Windows 8.1 (Free)

Perhaps and odd thing (or we are looking too much into it) if you do a Store search for 'Groove' or 'Groove Music' the first thing that pops up is Microsoft's Music app for Windows 8.1. This occurrence even happens in the new Windows 10 Store. These results suggest that either the developers behind Groove have insufficient keyword indexing, or their app is being downplayed in favor of Microsoft's. In fact, unless we use the direct link to the Groove app, we would not even know it is there.

It would be an interesting story if Microsoft acquired Zikera and used Groove not only to power their playlist creation but also as a new branding for Xbox Music. We have discussed issues with the Xbox branding in the past, including confusion on whether you need an actual Xbox to use it or not from consumers unfamiliar with Microsoft's products. If Microsoft shifts from Xbox brand to something else, no one would be shocked.

For now, this is all of course speculation as we await Microsoft's response. Seeing as Apple has bought and now integrated Beats into their music service and Google has picked up Songza, Microsoft would be forgiven for beefing up their playlist and song curation abilities as well. Whether they do this in-house or through acquiring a small, but well-received startup, remains to be seen.

Thanks, @TimN_FL, for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.