Last week, Microsoft revealed that it has placed the Xbox Music app for Windows Phone 8.1 in a particularly speedy biweekly update schedule. Today, we see the first results from that effort: The first interim update to Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1.
You can read about the general plans in Microsoft to Improve Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1, Other Platforms. In that article, I noted the biweekly schedule for updates—which is quite aggressive even in this age of rapid releases—and some of the fixes and changes Microsoft planned to deliver in this first update as well as future updates.
Today's release is identified as Xbox Music for Windows Phone 8.1 version 2.5.2842. The actual list of changes is quite a bit shorter than what I'd expected to see, but it includes:
Full Cortana integration including playing Playlists by name
UI polish to improve animations and transitions between UI views
Improved messaging for encountered errors, such as unplayable content in collections
Numerous stability fixes, including many of the reported black screens
Since this is a short list, it should come as no surprise that the list of fixes planned for future updates is quite a bit longer (and is mostly unedited from the Microsoft original):
Continued focus on stability and performance improvements
Background initial sync of local and cloud content (Note: This had been targeted for the last store update, but we pushed it out one more release to do some additional testing)
Fast Forward/Rewind by sliding progress bar in a song
UX layouts on buttons and metadata in now playing to better utilize space and make for better interaction
Support for large play queue (including playlist) greater than 100 songs
Improved load times for long lists through better list virtualization
Swipe Gesture to Advance on Now Playing
Live Tile and Transparent Tile support
Design & Layout improvements to get you to your content faster
Kids Corner support
UX improvements (Search result grouping, creating new Radio Stations, improved Network status messages, "Blue" UI language alignment, and more)
Microsoft promises that the next update will arrive "within the next 2 weeks." Obviously, it won't include everything listed above, but rather some subset of that. The firm asks that Xbox Music users visit the Xbox Music User Voice site to vote for the features they want to see next, as they'll prioritize based on this feedback.
This stuff is particularly interesting to me on a number of levels. For one, I'm actually a fan and user of the service, and recommend it to others. I'm writing a free e-book about it, too, of course, called Xbox Music Field Guide, which will cover Windows Phone 8.1 (and other modern platforms). And the transparency and speed we're seeing here is particularly impressive when you consider that Xbox Music was basically a black hole before. I love that they've opened up.