From what I can surmise, Microsoft is making some broad strokes when it comes to the re-imaging of how users interact with Windows as the development of Windows 10 continues.
Unfortunately, it seems the company is a bit more preoccupied with ‘modernizing’ user flow in Windows 10 and I believe it’s forgetting to paint the other side of the fence, to borrow an overused term.
Several teams within the Windows division are creating excellent user experiences such as Photos, Mail & Calendar and Edge, but it seems the overall picture of development still lacks a cohesive message that helps explain to users, the why of Windows 10.
I feel another unanswered why question that the Windows teams appear content with overlooking is the why of its built-in music streaming service, Groove.
Sure, it’s one thing to omit a fairly niche (but growing) service in podcast discovery and monetization from Windows 10 development as I’ve written earlier, but it’s an entirely different affair to almost aggressively undervalue a competitive resource in light of its recent progress.
Groove is and has been in development overdrive the last couple of years and has become the beacon to which Windows Insider testers look towards for upcoming UI development in Windows 10 as most new UI elements are incorporated to the service before any other app.
Microsoft’s Groove music service has come a long way and its development, like the mythological Phoenix rising from the ashes as fans stuck by the slow depreciation of its famed Zune interface, then journeyed across the transitional and featureless valley of the Xbox Music service to now bask in a cross platform and multi-device streaming competitor.
However, Microsoft’s marketing team seems to gloss over the importance of a built-in music streaming service in users lives as they trip over themselves to create another video package where some college student doodles on an Excel worksheet like a drunk alien on a corn field creating another batch of crop circles.
While Office 365 revenue rising 5% year over year warrants the company’s constant drumming of the productivity suite drum, it’s painting the other side of the fence where I feel Microsoft is dropping the ball. By not advertising Groove as the background streaming service built into Windows 10 that can offer a soundtrack for all user productivity tasks, Microsoft is effectively seeding the market to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and Google Play Music (YouTube Red/Music or whatever the company is calling it today), despite putting considerable resources into its own service.
Microsoft stays pretty tight lipped about the user statistics of its music streaming service, but it's perhaps safe to assume those subscriber numbers are well below that of its competitors. However, that doesn't have to remain the case based on what is publicly known.
Groove Music offers roughly the same 40 million tracks as other industry leaders, partial free access, selective streaming and downloads as well as cloud storage integration, all of which means it has the foundation to compete. In recent updates, Groove has also gained recommended playlists, radio stations, inline video playback and several cosmetic improvements that arguably put on par or ahead of its competitors
Unfortunately, none of the work being showcased by the Groove team appears worthy of a few TV spots or YouTube clips by Microsoft’s marketing or synergy efforts among the Windows team. Offering 40 million tracks comes with a considerable licensing department as well as UI and engineering overhead that we can only assume is being rolled into the overall budget for Windows 10 development.
Needless to say, there is a considerable amount of money going into the Groove experience but it’s hard to say how much Microsoft is getting back, especially without a noticeable spotlight being put on the service.
Strategies and solutions
Now that the Windows team has, in my opinion, created a worthy streaming service that can be pitted against industry stallworths such as Spotify and Pandora, I’m bemused as to why Microsoft seems reluctant to highlight its existence, let alone advertise it in any meaningful way.
I cannot recall the last time I saw an ad, on television or YouTube that actively highlighted Groove as Windows 10’s first party music streaming service but with the Fall Creators Update scheduled for release soon, now seems like a good time to give a nod to the app.
There is a lot to be gained for Microsoft in producing a handful of TV and YouTube spots that highlight Groove as a destination for all of users musical needs. Riffing off the top of my head, incorporating some synergies between Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana and Groove help drive a night of nostalgic music video viewing (cue Conga by Gloria Estefan).
By showcasing a bunch of people yelling at their PC, Xbox or phone to cue up the next music video via Groove I believe is great and practical use people gain from combing Windows 10, Cortana, and Groove.
If the above example is too divergent of Microsoft shifting productivity and creativity message, perhaps playing on the real world work environments of millions of businesses across the globe would be a better direction. From playing handcrafted playlists to blow through hours of coding or Excel sheets to picking the right music for a PowerPoint sales presentation, Groove could be highlighted as the musical core to most workplace productivity endeavors.
Attacking the segment from a pure productivity standpoint, studies have shown why offices continue to allow employees to listen to music or podcasts while working.
Mindlab International did a research commissioned by MusicWorks on music at work and conducted an experiment where 26 participants had to accomplish a series of different tasks five days in a row. Some participants listened to different genres of music while doing these tasks and some didn’t listen to music at all. The results showed that nine out of ten workers accomplished tasks more efficiently when listening to music. 88% of the participants produced most accurately test results and 81% completed their fastest work when music was played. The most mistakes were made when no music was played. - topdox.com
There are a few other examples I could pitch to Microsoft that include using some APIs to transfer playlists from other streaming sites or incorporating some Bing magic that shares search information with Groove to pull soundtracks, related music videos, and singles, but I’m not part of the company’s marketing team.
I'm sure Microsoft has the telemetry to back their lack of marketing of its Groove service, but as a fan who sits in an office working on marketing material for several brands for hours on ends, it simply boggles my mind as to why the company's latest laptop commercials highlight Spotify over its own more than capable offering.
I’m just a fan and long time subscriber to Microsoft’s streaming music service and I would like to see it get the exposure it has earned over the past couple of years. With the Groove team heading one of Windows 10’s shining UWP app progress, why not reward them with a spotlight for a time? Microsoft is already spending money on the development and maintenance of the apps and services of Groove, why not spend a bit more get a real return on investment measurement on a service that could only back and strengthen the company’s goal to have people ‘love’ Windows?