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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 (opens in new tab) (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

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

107 Comments
  • Ew.. That's like the worst name ever
  • Worse than 'Google Music' or 'Apple Music' or that previous thing called 'Beats'? Eh, seems no better nor worse. They're all better than something called 'Zune' which still has a cult-like following here.
  • Zune is a better name to me.. Too bad it never took off :/
  • If you're okay with Zune, that is totally fine. However, you have to be honest with yourself and acknowledge that is and was a terrible mocked name that was an awful decision for marketing.While the hardware and service was good, the name was ridiculous. If you cannot admit that, then I think credibility here is off the table, lol. Also, don't' get me started on 'squirting'.
  • Lol Daniel, your comment made me laugh on this extreemly lazy monday (Cant work today). I remember "Squirting" and i wonder who came up with that name and which nublet approved it. Anyway its gone and burried. All I want with Win 10 is a better music player (new app on TP is really good) and if groove brings it then i will really be happy. I kinda like that name TBH. Better than Xbox Music. Talking abt Xbox Music, i use that name as part of my gaming tag and people ask what is "Xbox Music" all the time and thats says a lot about MS and its marketing stratgy with the service. But I'm hoping they will improve the service before the launch in late fall.
  • Zune was a fine name, it was simply another case of MS's failure to properly market the device/service. I like the idea of them having a bit of an alphabet of services: Xbox (Gaming), Windows (Home/Enterprise), Y (TBD, I dunno, buy Yahoo!), Zune (Music/Video).
  • I'm going to stick to #MixRadio <3
  • Zune is a pretty cool name but it doesn't tell you much about the product (perhpas calling it Zune Music would fix that). Google Music and Apple Music sounds pretty dumb too, but at least you kind of get what they are (unlike Google Drive, which, despite knowing better, still makes me think its about their self-driving car initiative). Although I like the name Xbox Music (and Xbox Video, and the idea of unifying entertainment under the Xbox name), I get that it creates confusion among people who think it has something to do with gaming (i.e. the name is too associated with gaming and they need to run with that instead of combat it). Microsoft Music would make the most sense but be just as boring as the aforementioned. Groove Music would be the perfect name if Microsoft were launching this service in the 1970s. So, I guess I choose Zune Music. Problem solved.
  • I'm ok with Groove Music, but to be in par with the current market, I think Microsoft Music would be a better option. I always love and still miss the Zune sofware (oh the golden days of Windows Phone 7 with Zune... what a downgrade we have today) but the name was meh. I share your view for the Xbox brand though. They wanted to unify the Xbox brand for multimedia including video, music and video games but it didn't work out. For the general public, Xbox is the gaming console, not the music player of W8 PC. Starting with a new name with W10 is a smart move, especially now that Apple has embraced the streaming model (and we know it will bring more people on all platforms alltogether), making it like a new software for new users.
  • For a while I though Google Drive was their navigation app.
  • Dan I'm going to go find a mannequin that looks like you and punch it in the face because you bad mouthed Zune!  /cultfollower /notreallyendcultfollowerbutendviolence!
  • lol, that's fine, doesn't change the fact that Zune is a perfect example of a marketing failure that was disastrous for Microsoft :P Mind you, I liked the service and my Zune HD player which I still have, but hey, spade is a spade.
  • LOL! Yeah you have good points and one day I'll stop naming my Lumia 620 "Zune Lives"! :p
  • Hey Daniel - I forgot to mention that Xbox Music no longer functions through your Xbox account, but rather your Microsoft account. This is how I know: I was banned on Xbox under the MS account I currently use for all of my windows devices. When I use to sign into Xbox Music, Video, or, Games, it wouldn't allow it as I had a banned account, nor would it allow me to download Xbox enabled games. Now, however, I am able to sign in and sync music and videos between the apps due to the service now being through Microsoft Account instead, even though this MS account is still banned on Xbox. So, I think this proves the new Microsoft music change.
  • You cannot sign into your Xbox Live network still though. Also from what you've described, your Xbox Live was only temporarily banned. With perma ban still no Xbox services will work.
  • Yes, I am aware of that. I am just saying that the music and video services are not ran via Xbox Account anymore. I did get permanently banned, not suspended.
  • So even with Perma ban you can actually use Xbox Music? :O
  • Zune was horrible,I agree one hundred percent with you.
    Groove is Beautiful and also let's steal Madonna from Tidal lol Edit: Madonna's Into the Groove just started playing on my Lumia.
  • Daniel Rubino is a diehard Microsoft fanboy.
    Lol. corey's right and you know it...worst ever
  •   i like Microsoft Music . ms music is also good like ms edge  
  • Exactly! Associating with Xbox is a positive connection to a long recognized high quality brand. Xbox Music is a respectable, descriptive name. Groove simply will not resonate with everyone.
  • What about direct music..... Leave the x out.
  • All we know is that Beats sucks! Name mm... Can't say if it's weird or not.
    PS: Can't understand what I wrote!
  • Talking about former Beats (now Called Apple Music) I tried it this weekend on iTunes from my PC and it sucks, its worst even than Google Music, and the fact is I hate Google Music. Spotify all the way for now since its free on PC.
  • The name is not important, but the functionality it gives for Windows 8.1 or 10 users.Apple Music, Spotify and Xbox Music all require a subscription to be useful on smartphones.But on PC's you have Spotify and Rdio which are free, and that is what I think this new service could help Microsoft on desktop users. IMO this new service should have free desktop streaming with ads (like the ads on the radio) but with the difference that you choose what to listen, not your radio station.
  • Zune Music and Groove Music are just as wrong as Xbox Music for marketing purposes. Microsoft Music is simple and you immediately understand what it is! Microsoft Surface
    Microsoft Lumia
    Microsoft Office
    etc etc
    So Microsoft Music....imho.
  • Microsoft Music sounds lame! :P
  • yeah, i think Microsoft Music is the most clear and strightforward.
  • None of the names you listed have the word "Microsoft" included in their name, people are just used to also mention the name of the company that make the product when talking about it, for example, Samsung Galaxy, or Nintendo Wii. If it makes you happy, you can say Microsoft Groove and everyone will understand what you are talking about.
  • As far as I remember, the original Windows 8 Xbox music service was developed under the name "Woodstock". This would be a fine stand-alone name.
  • Doesn't matter what it's called, as long as they sort out the UX that they've broken over the last 3 years. If it still lacks gapless playback, the pop sound is still there and has duplicate issues then I'm going to call it 'Gro ove Gro ove *pop*click* Music Music'!
  • Wasn't Groove an Office product at one point?
  • Yep part of SharePoint
  • Yes, that was Ray Ozzie's company. It was a peer to peer collaboration tool. And I'm sure Microsoft still owns the rights to the name Groove.
  • It still is or was the exe for OneDrive For Business.
  • It would be wise for Microsoft to rebrand their video and music services so the average consumer understands it doesn't require a Xbox.  It's a very important part of building a strong Microsoft ecosystem. Hopefully Groove ends up being the name because it's actually pretty good.
  • This ^ I think there are much more Windows users than Xbox users, so a rebranding will definately help on Windows 10, 8.1, 7 users which think they need a subscription for Xbox Live to use the music service. BTW Xbox Music on web is really nice on IE11, even works on Ubuntu Linux and is great now that you can listen music from your OneDrive account.
  • How would buying a music streaming service be coherent with Microsoft's focus on their core business? And IMO, rebranding Xbox Music to Microsoft Music would be better as consumers would have more trust in a well-known company than in 'Groove Music'.
  • Let's be honest, something like Groove, which you likely had never heard of until this article, would not cost very much money at all. Also, we don't know what Nadella and the SLT have decided as their 'core' business, have we? I mean, I don't recall being briefed by them on the status of Xbox Music and Video. I have no idea what they think of those services in relation to Windows 10 plans. To me, it seems obvious that you need an OS + Services story to complete the picture for competition. Apple has their music, so does Google. Microsoft could surrender theirs but they have not been clear on their plans just yet.
  • "Also, we don't know what Nadella and the SLT have decided as their 'core' business, have we?" I would assume it would designate their products and services that contribute to higher productivity, but you're right, we don't know. "To me, it seems obvious that you need an OS + Services story to complete the picture for competition." I agree, but a partnership with Spotify for music and Netflix for video could suffice IMO.
  • I agree, but a partnership with Spotify for music and Netflix for video could suffice IMO.
    This, a hundred times. But it's highly unlikely.  I've been using Zune/Xbox Music since my first WP7 until 6 months ago where I switched to Spotify. Never regretted my decision and until some big change, I'll probably stay on Spotify. I have a hard time believing both services have a similar amount of musics since, for a lot of artists of my collection, there was way more albums and singles on Spotify than there was on XBM, also the public playlists available are just a great thing, the community really helps. As far as Netflix is concerned, the services aren't that similar, but now that Netflix is almost available everywhere, it would be a smart move.  
  • I dream with MS expanding this and also offering a book, magazine and newspaper store. They need this.
  • When...WHEN will I be able to move my OneDrive Music folder outside of the OneDrive Parent folder and anywhere else (or to any other partition) that I want?!?! >:O
  • I just want my album art out of my photos
  • Yessss album art needs to get out of my photos
  • +920
  • My feeling is that instead of trying to "brand" it at all (attempts at which have repeatedly failed), they should just call it the "Microsoft Music Pass".  This name is at least descriptive and leverages the strongest brand they have.
  • Being from Montreal, this would be cool if it was actually Groove. We're on the map!
  • If the Groove app, as it is, creates playlists based on your personal preferences I can see this being bundled into Cortana if they have been aquired by Microsoft.
  • Well I hope it is an acquisition of Zikera and that Groove is just a placeholder name until official Microsoft Music branding is unveiled. Can't bear to think that Microsoft has also sold XBox Music like some windows analysts are saying on twitter. Microsoft would be stupid to sell its entertainment oriented services. Entertainment doesn't only include gaming. Music, films and TV shows are an important aspect of it and Microsoft needs to make them as awesome as its productivity oriented offerings. I also don't like how they sold off their mapping assets to Uber. Mapping is an important back end for Cortana and since Microsoft are making such a huge deal out of Cortana, its capabilities shouldn't depend on the whims of 3rd party data providers. I just hope Microsoft acquires Here Maps assets as well.
  • MS mapping assets were tiny. A few people with couple of mapping vehicles. Not suitable for any serious mapping operation. They may buy at least part of the HERE and are cleaning the house because of that. Ideal combo in my mind would be Mercedes + BMW + Audi + MS.
  • If a music themed acquisition has occurred, I hope its the first of a few. Grab one of the technologies powering Beats or Pandora or Slacker.
  • My hope is that they build in some better radio stations and give us more device support.  The 5 device support isn't enough and the 30 day limit on deleting devices is terrible especially when you are playing with Insider builds on many of your devices and phones.  I can't download my xbox music for 30 days now on my new 640 XL.  Annoying! Liking the 640 XL a lot.  Missing the camera button and wireless charging a bit but, I do like the phone better than the 830.
  • better call it Microsoft Music. then about xbox video, i dunno what to call it but make it central hub for renting movies, watching videos and uploading ala youtube and streaming ala twitch. ofcourse if its possible.
  • Then if it is a central hub, I wouldn't call it Microsoft Music. People may think it's running on Windows XP and they'll hit a blue screen of death. Groove doesn't sound so bad.
  • To go with the retro "Groove" name, maybe MSFT should rename XBox Video to "Acetate" or "Celluloid". Use a burnt out projector bulb as the app icon.
  • Xbox video must get a subscription service (a la Netflix) if it wants to stay relevant in the coming years, my last digital movie purchase was in 2011 on iTunes, but since Netflix I haven't rented or purchased a movie since it's much more expensive than having a streaming service where you don't own the content, but you can stream it for a much lower price.
  • If they are investing in music, why did they sell MixRadio?
     
  • They really didn't need MixRadio and it didn't have anything they found valuable. I believe they were looking for patents and it just didnt have what they wanted. I could be wrong, but I'm not far off
  • Sounds about right.  Even though I use MixRadio on a daily basis. 
  • Exactly
  • If they go with this name I see MS caving to Grooveshark in the looming name battle.  In before people may get confused on the services.   On the real MS does need a good name for their service it's just that it's aproaching them being too late to the game even though they've had a very fine working model before Apple and Google.  It's a shame that Zune was mocked.  It paved the way for many other services.  Apple wasn't even thinking of streaming music at the time.  Now Artist are flocking to Apple Music or Tidal leaving MS and even Google in the dust.  It's the next format war and MS will probably not fare well from this.  Already there are albums that are not listed on XBOX Music.
  • Grooveshark no longer exist, so I'm sure they could sue if they wanted, but no point. They shutdown
  • When they upgrade Onedrive on Windows 10 to have smart files once again, I will consider using the streaming services for my own music.........until then, my personal library of music lives on Google's servers (they were first to the streaming party, so i give them some credit)...........this being said - I have XB music pass, and hardly ever use Google, especially since they dont support WP, or Modern Windows in any capacity except for using Chrome.
  • Nice name but what they need to do is give out free digital content in Xbox music just like what Google Play Music is doing. 
  • So would you be able to download and save songs while on your phone, to your phone, like on XBox music? Create your own  playists from those songs like on XBox music? And it says plug your phone into pc. I never have to do that with XBox music and One Drive. So if can't do these things I'll be very disappointed. An of course would you still be able to use Bing Rewards points for Music Pass....no on any of these  would probably be a deal breaker for me
  • MSN is out of fashion?
  • Makes sense to me. The fact they called it Xbox Music to start with baffled my mind from the start.
  • Groove Music is an incredibly awful name that tbh I'd be embarrassed telling people I used.
  • I would love to see grove music be a thing on windows instead of Microsoft or Xbox music
  • What Microsoft needs to do is buy Spotify! The brand is strong and it comes with a huge paying customer base.
  • I agree with this sentiment, if Microsoft really wants to get serious on this front, buying Spotify would be the best move.
  • The phone companion app is not working for me. It's closing immediately after launching. I was looking forward to a usable app for synching music and media to my phone. Windows Phone app makes me sick
  • lol, get over it. You're testing early development software that has bugs and issues. You signed up for it and lose the right to whine because something isn't working yet.
  • Thank you. I'm tired of people complaining. Use the feedback app report the problem, send the reports and wait.
  • Are you implying till will all be fixed come 29th July? I doubt it.
  • Are you implying it won't? I doubt it. Keep in mind were insiders are probably a good amount of builds behind, dont think that 1016x is the latest microsoft is at, I expect quite a jump from the last insider build to the rtm.
  • Whining rights revoked...
  • I hope Microsoft adds playlists to Xbox Music, it's the only thing I don't like about it. I would have preferred them do it by acquiring MixRadio but Groove is a cool app too.
  • Makes sense now why grooveshark.com shut down..
  • That is a App that is separate from Xbox music. Name changes for certain Apps may occur though , but for now my Xbox music pass is pumping out the songs I like.
  • Microsoft already has too many brands. (Office, Skype, Xbox, Windows, Azure.......). They need to simplify things and by adding/creating an entirely new brand will be too costly and time consuming. They need to either just make it part of Microsoft like Microsoft Music or just purchase an established service. But then there is the dilemma, if you have Mirosoft Music, then you need Microsoft Video too adding even more complexity. This is where Google excels, consumers already know that to purchase anything Google it is the Google Play Store.
  • I hadn't heard of this app before, but I just barely let my xbox music pass lapse, and copied my entire 80GB collection to my machine.  So right now was the perfect time for me to test this app out. I'm blown away so far.  Of that 80GB, about 60 of it is my wife's stuff, and of that I am probably only interested in 20% of what she has.  So the stuff I'm into is certainly less than half.  I can't see any way to favorite stuff or tell the app what I like and don't like, but it's almost magical how it's pinpointed all the stuff I like.  I don't know if it's going off what I skip or what, but the playlists it builds are perfect for me.   Way better than results I'd get from doing radios in xbox music.  I really hope they do acquire this company and integrate it into xbox music.  I'd absolutely subscribe to it again if this was built in. I wish they had a Windows Phone app.   Very strange that they only have an iOS and Win8 app...  almost suspicious.  Why not android, and why Windows 8, not windows Phone?  Can't tell when the app was released to the store, but it was updated recently. 
  • I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
  • I really like Xbox music because I can access it from every smartphones, tablet, web browser, Xbox etc... What is missing is mix created on different criteria such as the ones in Mix Radio app. It would definitely makes sense to remove Xbox from the name
  • I can live with the name as long as the logo for the Music app that's in the latest build isn't what they use. It's horrible. Just make it headphones, the icon looks too much like Cortana, for one, and it's just plane ugly in my taskbar.
  • I hope most realize that the Zune interface is still seen in wp8.1....swipe left... Zune player still the best..
  • So, why sell MixRadio? ​
  • Microsoft music
  • People barely associate anything good to microsoft these days. Especially Apple users tend to think it's still 1998, yet living in 2015. They've made some decent brands such as Xbox and Surface, but they shouldn't use those names because some people think you need those devices to use the service. They would need to create a whole new brand here for Music and Video (Movies + TV). Maybe Groove kinda makes sense here. Groove Music or Groove Movies or Groove TV. Doesn't sound so bad when you can use Groove Entertainment!  
  • Wired USB transfer for offline playback? I mean come on, WTF? What are you doing here Microsoft?
  • Totally agree. I never have to plug my phone to pc now. Hope this is a terrible rumor
  • Still prefer my own free music on my phone. To hell with paid streaming. #oldskool
  • +1 If Microsoft makes this move. I was thinking of dropping Xbox Music due to the lack of random song picking. But if the screenshot of Instant Mix / Random Mix is true then hurrah! What would keep me with Microsoft is: Pre-Radio Stations based on genre no artist. A todays hits that doesn't include the same artist, erm Drake... International / World Wide Stations. Those are why I am looking to move to Deezer but I do like Microsoft. So Microsoft, don't let me down, and make this more than just a simple name change.
  • Guys, what do you'll think of it being called, Microsoft Music?
  • Consistent with the "G" logo on the Windows 10 music app
  • Well it would be nice, I love Groove Music Player would love to see it as a universal app
  • When oh when will Microsoft ditch the "Monkeys in a room with typewriters" approach to branding and create a viable strategy and then stick to it for more than two years? Hotmail, Live, Outlook, Zune, XBox - fire most people, by the time they figure out what these ' Brands ' encompass, they are changed yet again, and again. It leaves a sense of constant inconstancy, and is a powerful disincentive for the average Consumer to commit themselves to a Microsoft ecosystem.
  • I only just came across this thread while looking for something else, but I have to disagree. Honestly, I don't think most people care that much. There is so much branding around now that the "average consumer" doesn't understand most of it anyway. If you did a survey asking which brand of computer most people own and I bet "Windows" is the top answer - not HP, Dell or whatever. A lot of people are unsure what they are buying and are confronted with brands like Windows, Intel and the PC manufacturer on the box and PC itself before even turning it on. At the next step they're hit with branding such as Edge, McAfee and so on... People who ARE more computer savvy will understand perfectly what Hotmail, Live, Outlook are (names that have all been around for a slong while incidentally) and will understand fully that Edge is a browser, Groove is a music app and so on. They don't really care about the Microsoft ecosystem, they just want something that works for them. If they don't get any of that, chances are they'll never understand how to use a computer, what Bluetooth or Wi-Fi streaming is and so on. Kudos to Windows Central for at least acknowledging at the time that they were unsure what the original meaning was rather than making up stories like most other journos do.
  • Groove Music is official http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2015/07/06/updates-to-entertain...
  • I believe Zune would have been a lot better as a name.
  • Wonder what the branding for video will be. Groove doesn't really work for movies. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Ew really? Still prefer xbox music or bring back ZUNE please!
  • Seriously, how many times are they going to change the name? I personally liked Zune the best.
  • What's gonna happen with the Xbox Music Pass?
  • Did anyone else notice the Xbox music logo in windows 10 mobile got morphed into a G logo. Makes sense now...
  • Well.  That's interesting. I wonder what Microsoft will later decide to call their Music service this time next year?