Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been the unsung player in streaming music.
The company has an all-you-can-listen subscription service -- Xbox Music -- but it has barely made a ripple. While Spotify, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Music, and Jay-Z's Tidal earn the lion's share of the press, Microsoft's offering has existed in relative obscurity.
That's about to change as the company has renamed its music service with plans to relaunch it along with Windows 10. The newly titled Groove won't be that different from Xbox Music, but it will be integrated into the new OS, which will be hyped to the moon upon its late July release.
What is Groove?
The new Microsoft music offering will offer both a $9.99 subscription service and the ability for people to have extensive access to their own collection of purchased music through the company's OneDrive cloud storage drive. Once a song is uploaded, users will be able to access it from any Windows device, Xbox console, and even Android or Apple phones.
In addition to the $9.99 a month subscription offer, customers will also be able to pay $99 a year ($8.25 a month average) for access to Microsoft's deep catalog of songs. Groove lacks Apple's custom radio station and may not have as many exclusives, but if you're looking to stream as much as you want, it seems very similar.
The company said in a blog post that it made the changes based on customer demand:
Let's start with Music. Our fans asked for faster ways to access the music they love -- quickly, efficiently, and on their favorite devices. And for that, we're proud to introduce the evolution of our current Xbox Music experience, now titled Groove, with new features we think you're going to love. Groove describes what people feel and do with music, and is more intuitive for our Windows 10 customers on what they'll find with the app.
Basically, it's a music service just like any other similar offering, but it's optimized to work with Windows 10 and that may be enough to help the company gain a toehold in the space.
Why does this have a chance of working?
The entire point of Windows 10 is that it offers a universal experience across all Windows devices. Apps work on phones, tablets, and PCs with the visual experience as well as the control shifting based upon which device you are using.
It's possible to use Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal on Windows 10 devices, but those experiences won't be built in or be completely integrated with the OS. Microsoft will make it easy for users to add Groove and share their music to OneDrive. The difference may not be great, but Microsoft may have a chance to win over people essentially using home-court advantage in its favor.
Groove, like Microsoft's new browser, Edge, will be preinstalled on Win10 devices. That might be enough to get people to sample it. The company has not announced a free trial like Apple's 90-day offering, but if it makes it easy for people to sample the service they might stay simply because it's already there and it's good enough.
Microsoft is smart for trying
Unlike Apple, Microsoft has played the introduction of Groove very low-key. The company has not held a splashy launch event nor has it brought out celebrity partners or done much else to get attention.
That makes sense because the greatest strength for Groove is that it's already there. If Microsoft delivers a quality experience and gets people to sample that might be enough to keep them away from its rivals.
It's not a bold strategy, but it's a sensible one which has worked for the company in the past as it built up on the audience for Internet Explorer, Bing, and other products.