I’ve had Windows 8 on this machine for over a month now – hard to believe – and it’s only recently that I’ve dug into the Xbox Music app that’s baked right into the operating system. You’d figure after a long history of Zune, it’d be one of the first things I tackle, but Microsoft’s had a spotty record with updating their software to, y’know, compete. Xbox Music, for the most part, works exactly as advertised, but there are some large, gaping holes where some pleasurable functionality just isn’t there. Why?
As a program and as a service, Xbox Music is missing two huge opportunities that Zune had with its software:
The Social Is Gone. I’ve said it before, but the Zune Social was a huge reason I loved the player and its service. I had people that existed in both my musical realm and on my Xbox friends list (since it was a unified list) so I had a pre-populated group that I could compare my musical collection and tastes to. I even had a few friends that sent me recommendations on a regular basis and that was far more powerful recommendation engine than anything south of Pandora. There was also the gamification in the form of badges based on what you listen to. It could’ve had a little more depth, but the Zune was left in the dust after a few years as it was. Despite Spotify’s great Facebook integration, it is pretty dreadful at keep tracking of listens, especially over the long run. I really wish it weren’t so shoddy as many of those listens disappear. It seems odd that such a major pillar of the Zune service was thrown out in making Xbox Music work when they already had much of that tech working across their platforms – the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and PC.
Where The Hell Are The Podcasts? One thing that quickly irritated me moving up to Windows 8 was, lacking my Zune software, I had absolutely no way to aggregate podcasts. Xbox Music has no such method to collate and sort them. I don’t listen to as many podcasts as I used to, but between Giant Bomb and The Verge, I still camp out for my regular oldie-style radio show listening sessions. I’ve tried a few other Windows 8 apps and all of them are rubbish. Short of grabbing the Zune software (or some other, weird aggregator) I’ve resorted to listening to the podcasts through the sites directly. Thank goodness I don’t listen to that many shows or I’d be losing my mind.
I have no doubt that these features will pop up again, but it seems incredibly odd that, in a grand rebranding, they’ve removed such major portions of what made Zune great in place of… well, nothing.