Microsoft is tweaking a number of its built-in apps for Windows 8.1, but the Music app appears to include the most changes. A freshly redesigned copy of the Windows Store in leaked builds of Windows 8.1 has revealed the new user interface for Xbox Music. Microsoft previously revealed to The Verge that the focus with the new Music app is on playing songs over surfacing new content, noting you can now play music in two clicks rather than six.
Screenshots of the new Xbox Music update show a two panel interface that appears to improve discoverability of music and the ability to quickly access a collection of songs. Xbox Music originally launched in October for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, with the ability to access songs from an Xbox 360 too. Although the service includes most popular songs and albums, the interface has often been slow and clunky on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices. The updated app clearly aims to improve that, with a "simplified design and layout" according to Microsoft. There's also a persistent in-app search box with improved search results, support for music files on SD cards, and Play To support for songs outside of the Xbox Music catalogue.
Microsoft is also adding a number of new built-in apps, including Calculator, Sound Recorder, Scan, Reading List, Movie Moments, and Help & Tips. Movie Moments allows you to edit videos from a touch-friendly interface, and Reading List acts as a super clipboard to store URLs and other snippets from applications. The Sound Recorder, Calculator, and Scan apps are all simplified touch-friendly versions to replace the legacy desktop variants. Help & Tips will include a number of tutorials for new Windows 8.1 users that should improve some of the associated confusion with the new interface.
Alongside the Xbox Music redesign and additional apps, the new Windows Store interface has also been spotted in Windows 8.1 builds. Microsoft appears to be altering the design of its Store, alongside improvements to the top paid and top free sections, new releases, and a "picks for you" section that suggests applications based on an existing library. Similar apps are also suggested within app pages, with a general focus on app discoverability. The new Windows Store also works well in portrait mode, designed for upcoming 7- and 8-inch tablets. All the improvements will be made available in Windows 8.1, an update that Microsoft will release as a preview version on June 26th alongside its Build developer conference.
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