Another curious Microsoft executive misstatement this week raised questions about the future of Microsoft's Xbox Music and Xbox Video services. But Joe Belfiore responded to the rumors on Twitter with some good news: The firm has no plans to drop Xbox Music or Xbox Video.
Worries about Xbox Music (and Xbox Video) actually started when Microsoft announced some strategy changes as part of last week's layoffs. At the time, the firm revealed that it was halting its Xbox-based content efforts, and would focus Xbox solely on gaming. Many naturally wondered whether that meant bad news for Xbox Music and Xbox Video.
Then, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella implied that these services could be on the chopping block as part of a post quarterly earnings announcement conference call.
"With our decision to specifically focus [Xbox] on gaming, we expect to close Xbox entertainment studios and streamline our investments in music and video," he said. "We will invest in our core console gaming in Xbox live with a view towards the broader PC and mobile opportunity."
So then the real hand-wringing began.
Fortunately, it was short-lived. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore explained on Twitter that Xbox Music and Xbox Video were safe.
"Don't worry, [there are] no plans to drop Xbox Music/Video," he wrote. "My team builds these key scenarios for tablets, phones, PCs. And Xbox team does on console."
He then added a few more bits of info:
"In fact, we have one of our bigger/stronger Xbox Music updates just a couple weeks away ... you're gonna like it. Perf[ormance] fixes and some [new] features ... We've started adding splash screens for app-consistency across Win[dows] 8.1 (where they all have them) and [Windows Phone] 8.1."
So. Good news. And I will continue work on the Xbox Music Field Guide.
But I do want to briefly address a related issue. Every time I discuss Xbox Music on Twitter, in particular, and often here on this site as well, I hear from this strange contingent of Zune fans. These people are misguided if they really believe that Zune was "better" than Xbox Music—which they clearly do, or that Microsoft should halt production of Xbox Music and go back to Zune. Or whatever.
Folks, this isn't true. And it's a rewriting of history—not to mention reality—to suggest otherwise.
Zune on the PC was initially terrible, but it eventually because a nice-looking if non-standard application for managing a local music collection. But this software was written for a different era, when people ripped music from CDs and managed music on their PCs. Yes, many still do that, I get it. But the modern approach is to organize music in the cloud and ideally use a subscription service to build that collection, which you can then access from any device at any time. This is what Xbox Music does, and it is in fact better than Zune. It's not even in the same league. That's why I'm writing a book about it. The service is excellent, and well-conceived.
It is fair to say, however, that Microsoft has completely f$%ked up the Windows Phone 8.1 client for Xbox Music. This app is a travesty of performance problems, and still is despite multiple updates since it RTMed back in April. I suspect they'll get it right, and I do think the Windows, Xbox One and Web clients are fantastic, so there's precedent here. But don't confuse one bad app with the entire service being broken, sucking, or just not being as good as Zune. Again, that is not true.
As an Xbox Music user and fan, and a subscriber to Xbox Music twice over, I'm eager for them to get the Windows Phone 8.1 client right. But let's not throw the entire product line under the bus because of this one disaster.