With little fanfare, today Microsoft updated a key part of the user experience for the Windows 10 operating system that it hopes to give away free to users later this year. Right now there’s a big update rolling out to Xbox, the companion app that’ll bringing the Xbox Live experience to millions of PC users for the first time.
In a post on Xbox Wire, Microsoft talks at length about the changes made in this latest Xbox app update on Windows 10. The gist of this update seems to be Microsoft rolling out design changes and making the Xbox app a true replacement for the Xbox SmartGlass app it makes for Windows 8.
The ability to watch Game Clips is included in this update. So is the ability to finally download the game clips you create. That last bit should definitely appease Xbox One owners, who’d been forced to use third-party websites to get local copies of the videos they make. With the Activity Feed, Microsoft turned Xbox Live into a bona-fide social network. The Activity Feed isn’t necessarily new with this Xbox on Windows 10 update, but now Windows 10 users can like other’s comments and delete their own feed items.
The search box on the far right of the Xbox app for Windows 10 didn’t allow users to look up real names, just Xbox Live gamertags. That was a big problem, Microsoft recently rolled out a setting that would allow users to let all of their Xbox Live friends see their real name. Not being able to do so sometimes created a barrier for two friends who might want to play together but didn’t know each other’s gamertag.
Today, Xbox SmartGlass allows users to connect to their console and see what’s going down on Xbox Live. Originally, the app was built around second-screen experiences. Microsoft wanted to give users the opportunity to interact with what’s going on their screen through the smartphone or tablet they likely already have in their hand. SmartGlass can be used as a replacement Xbox One controller for basic games or as keyboard since no Xbox One Chatpad exists. With this update, Xbox on Windows 10 has almost completely caught up with what’s available in Xbox SmartGlass on Windows, iPhone and Android. Users can browse any Xbox Live enabled game, control their Xbox One and browse the OneGuide. One of the only big features Xbox for Windows is missing from Xbox SmartGlass is the ability to stream live television directly from the Xbox One abroad using the Xbox TV Tuner accessory.
Microsoft first revealed that it had plans to roll out robust access to Xbox Live at the Windows 10 Media Briefing in January. At the time, the company said that users would be able to link to their Xbox One console and play games with an Xbox controller directly from their PC. Today’s Xbox app update for Windows 10 users doesn’t deliver that feature.
Today’s update for the Xbox app on Windows 10 comes just as public perception of Microsoft’s progress is reaching a low point. Microsoft started off the year promising to deliver new version of Windows 10 for users to try and provide feedback on. Rumors indicate that bugs are holding up the company’s progress, forcing Microsoft to hold off on releasing anything to the public. It’s been more than a month since Microsoft last updated the Windows 10 Technical Preview significantly.
Windows 10 adds a Start Menu that users can resize, brings apps purchased from the Windows Store to the Desktop and introduces easy ways to monitor app storage and data use. It’s also the first time Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant has made it anywhere else besides Windows Phone.
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