For some time now there has been confusion around the names of Microsoft’s music and video apps as they relate to Xbox and non-Xbox users.
With names that were pre-fixed with Xbox it created some serious branding issues. The result was many users questioning whether they needed an Xbox to use these apps and then the music pass from Microsoft also included the Xbox pre-fix and subsequently resulted in users connecting that to use solely on an Xbox console.
We know that Microsoft has plans to release their music service to iOS and Android as a cross platform service – evidence of this already exists in the screenshots of the new Phone Companion app that became functional in Windows 10 build 10158 last week.
This week Microsoft is attempting to clear up this confusion by rebranding their music service to Groove and leaving the video app named Movies & TV – a name it received four weeks ago in Windows 10 Build 10130 when that app was transitioned out of preview status.
Unfortunately, the branding story continues to be convoluted when it comes to Microsoft’s newly announced Groove name for their music service.
In March of 2005 Microsoft acquired a company called Groove Networks which was founded by Ray Ozzie. As part of the acquisition he was named Microsoft’s Chief Technical Officer reporting directly to Bill Gates.
The Groove technology eventually became known as SharePoint Workspace in 2010 and facilitated document collaboration across remote team members. While SharePoint Workspace has since been discontinued some of its functionality now exists in OneDrive for Business.
The Groove name itself has not been used in Microsoft for over five years and this would not be the first time Microsoft has re-used a product name as the companies Surface line inherited its name from the large format touch screen devices now known as Perceptive Pixels.
While many in the IT world know about Groove in its previous incarnation a vast majority of consumers will not have that same perception relating to the name.
By using a name for a brand it already owns Microsoft should have been able to avoid the trade mark issues it experienced when it chose to label its Windows 8 user interface and apps Metro. That resulted in Microsoft backing away from the term Metro in favor of Modern and other generic terms to describe its Windows Store based apps and user interface.
Well unfortunately for Microsoft, this re-branding is not without its apparent controversy relating to another service called Groove Music App.
Groove Music App arrived around 2009 – a full five years after Microsoft purchased Groove Networks – and was developed by a company called Zikera based in Canada.
This app saw a lot of growth in the 2012/2013 time frame and its strength was being able to automatically craft playlists from your music collection that brought together your tastes based on genre. It could also examine your music collection and dig into the nooks and crannies to re-discover music you may not have listened to in some time.
While I do not profess to be a trade mark or copyright expert this just seems like it will ultimately be a headache for Microsoft along the lines of the entire Metro branding which they abandoned due to a possible legal challenge.
While Microsoft’s original use of Groove has nothing to do with music and the Groove Music App arrived on the scene after Microsoft acquired Groove Networks in 2005 there was not much of a chance the two could be confused back then.
With yesterday’s announcement by Microsoft of their Groove music service, the music service formerly known as Xbox Music, that now introduces a state of confusion relating to using the Groove name related to music with the existence of Groove Music App.
To be honest Microsoft should have acquired the Groove Music App and incorporated its tagging, friend sharing, content discovery and automatic playlist creation and added these to the now named Groove music service. These are features that would have vastly improved Microsoft's music offering.
However, instead of focusing on the service itself Microsoft will now be dealing with the chatter and distractions relating to the services name instead of its capabilities. Seems like a repeat of the Metro situation and that did not end well.
I have reached out to the folks behind the Groove Music App at Zikera to find out their take on this situation. As soon as I hear back from them I will add their response to this article.