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Poor Microsoft -- it tries so hard. An abandoned phone platform, a mostly overlooked app store, a fairly useless movie library (no mobile apps or Roku support) and a music-streaming service that's rarely mentioned in the same breath as Apple Music, Google Play Music or Spotify.
And why should it be? It's priced the same as the others (for individuals, anyway; Microsoft still doesn't offer a family plan). It's been through two name changes (Zune Music and Xbox Music), which just confuses everyone -- and "Groove" sounds like something your parents would come up with to try to sound hip. And speaking of which, let's face it: Microsoft just isn't where the cool kids want to get their music.
You know what's always cool? Saving money. And this is one of those rare moments when Microsoft will allow you to do that. As part of a Labor Day sale, you can get seven months of Microsoft Groove Music for $9.99.
It works like this: You'll sign up for service at the regular $9.99 per month rate, but then get two free three-month promo codes you can apply to your account. This offer is for new subscribers only, though I think it's a safe bet the majority of you fall into that category.
You will, of course, need to provide a credit card, and you'll need to cancel Groove before month eight rolls around -- unless you want to stay on as a subscriber.
I haven't tried Groove myself, but from what I've gleaned from both professional and user reviews, the service is a mixed bag.
For starters, it has a "millions of songs catalog" (oh, Microsoft -- hire an editor). At least one source pegs the number at around 40 million, but Microsoft doesn't specify. Your subscription entitles you to ad-free listening, of course, along with offline play, artist-based radio stations and mood-driven playlist creation.
Groove offers a web-based player, Sonos support and apps for both Android and iOS. It goes without saying that it's also accessible via Xbox and nearly every other Microsoft product.
Here's where it gets interesting: Groove syncs with OneDrive, meaning you can also stream songs you've uploaded to your account (assuming you have one). That's a nice plus if you want access to tunes not available via Groove proper.
But is it enough? Some users of the Android and iOS apps reported various annoyances, especially with regard to downloading songs and listening offline.
Your mileage may vary, of course. My take: If you don't already have a music subscription, this is an awfully cheap way to enjoy unlimited listening for seven months -- even if the experience isn't perfect.
Bonus deal: While we're on the subject of streaming media, today only, Vudu is offering selected movie rentals for 10 cents each. Best bets, according to yours truly: The incomparable "Casablanca," the way-better-than-you'd-expect "The Big Short" and, er, that's it for my picks.
You may find other titles you like -- and, hey, they're a dime, so the only real cost is your time. (Pro tip: Don't waste it on "Django Unchained." Blech!)