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Xbox Music for Windows 8 gets a nice update, improves performance and more

We’re not going to beat around the bush with this one: Xbox Music leaves a lot to be desired on Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8), so with every little update we get a tad excited.

Today, Microsoft is pushing out an update for the Music portion of your PC or Surface bumping it from version 1.1.139.0 to 1.1.144.0. Luckily for you we also have a corresponding changelog so you know what to look for...

Changes for 1.1.144

  • Improvements to simplify access to streaming music for free
  • An update to further streamline the transition from a trial subscription to a paid Xbox Music Pass
  • A fix to minimize occasional playback concerns
  • Additional minor fixes

The timing of the update seems to coincide with Microsoft’s official rollout of the Xbox Music Pass, which we covered earlier in the week. 

In addition, though it’s unmentioned above, the performance of the app in terms of gesture reaction and transitions is seemingly much better with this update. In laymen’s terms, the lag is all but gone. And while that might not matter on a i7 quad core system on the Surface RT it needs all the software optimization it can get, making this a nice update for those users.

To force an update check on our Windows 8 machine, simply launch the Store and go to Settings. Under App Updates you can have it manually check for the new version of Xbox Music.

Thanks, Andrew S. and Justin A., for the tip!

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Comments

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jiffffy pop says:

I'm not happy with Xbox Music. I can no longer download or transfer music to my phone, its all in the cloud. Zune FTW.

rightisray says:

I don't even bother with the music app or the windows phone connector. Allmy music is edited through the mp3tag software and transferred to the phone through windows explorer.

goldenpipes says:

What idtag version do u use? Like 3.2? Imsome of my stuff like albumart that I inject with mp3tag seems to not save as well as other tags.

ScubaDog says:

Actually, that's not true.  XBox Music is merely a way to consume media.  The Windows Phone app is used for sync of media (or using File Explorer to go direct).

rodneyej says:

ScubaDog,, is that you from the WP blog?? Its Rodney Jones.. Hey, check out this comment I made about Xbox music on WP8..... http://blogs.windows.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2013/01/08...

ymala1 says:

Holy shit Rodney, you really started a fire over there.
 
While I generally dislike people who go onto these official blogs and then start complaining about every random issue that they have, I think you prefaced your problem with enough respect and apologies, and this really is an issue I wish MS would fix. It's really egg on their face for trying to force such a halfbaked solution on the music and syncing front on us.
 
I'm glad that Michael Stroh on that post actually addressed your concerns. MS should at the very least come out and acknowledge that the current state of affairs in this area is not acceptable, even if they can't give us a concrete date as to when we can see fixes. Give us something. And of course, considering that the older way of doing things, i.e. Zune, was on many fronts actually better is just salt in the wound.

rodneyej says:

Thanks, and that's why I always skip the user's voice website and go strait to the blog with my issues. Us consistent WP bloggers are know by Michael and the WP team, and they have replied to us numerous amounts of times. It works, and I'm sure by now they are aware of all the issues users are having. Pretty much all we can do now is sit back and wait for a fix, and I am positive that we won't have to wait until the next major update.. Surely XBM is the single most biggest complaint about WP/W8 that I've seen, and if these guys know what's best for the brands then they will quickly rework these services.. I think that's the key,, the fact that these are services, and they just are not the quality of work that we have come to expect from the new MS. Basically they have no choice at this point if they know what's best, and I have faith that they do.

I totally agree. The worse part with XBM is it's inability to access a network drive where music is stored. There is a workaround for it but it is not an ideal solution. Thus I am sticking with the Zune software and WP7 until XBM is fixed or replaced.

rchillin says:

What was the work around because I've tried just about everything.  Can't use Zune on my wife's Surface RT.

There are several but this seems to be the most reliable until there's a fix. I have 1TB of music (all purchased or ripped from personal CD library) on a Drobo FS with 6TB storage. Zune & iTunes are fine with it. XBM of course is not. Good luck!

rchillin says:

Yeah, I wound up installing Zune. Even windows media player could load all my networked music (I'm running windows 8 on my laptop)

tallgeese says:

I implemented this workaround awhile back and it works. Be sure your SD card is formatted with FAT32.

JenkTJ27 says:

I just add the unc path for my network shares to the Music Library folder in Explorer.

MediaCastleX says:

If I were you, I would treat the Surface simply as an access point for your content and do all the heavy lifting on your desktop PC. Its a tablet, less expect / less stress...this attitude has alleviated all my concerns. ;)

tigermcm says:

Hmmmmm does this fix the annoying fact that my ablums are always split in teo??

MediaCastleX says:

Is that in between three and two? I would send feedback to support on that specifically...

Xbox music is a complete mess, I'm trying to like it I just can, it needs to be simplified, even on my phone the fact that you sometimes can't even see the full name of the artist and song pisses me off Lol, more fixes needed until its perfect!

falcon304 says:

It wonder if it, yah know, actually functions now. On Surface RT I was constantly getting "can't play" errors. Haven't had that in a while, but now it like to pause songs and refuses to resume until I've hit the play/pause button 5-6 times.

techygeek82 says:

Well...at least they are providing SOME sort of update. It's great that performance has been improved, but ulimately that just means the crappy experience will happen faster. Xbox Music truly is the one thing I despise about Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It's unfortunate they haven't gone further with improvements (yet).

CommonBlob says:

Nice, I use this app all day and it seriously needs an update!

RolexDPracer says:

Bring back Zune!!

Rick Chase says:

They should. Zune had it all, social features, play counts, nice auto syncing, etc. They need to fix this mess

That would be the best news ever. XBM is so woeful for so many reasons. Can't see how they can ever make it better without a complete rewrite...

They can't, Zune transferred media through API's, but since everyone bitched about mass file transfer and USB storage, they had to create Xbox music and the shirt transfer program so that wp8 could use MTP

12Danny123 says:

Why are you guys so negative about Xbox Music. I fine it absolutelty fine :-)

Mostly to do with syncing to a Windows Phone 8 device, it's pretty bad. Also, many options are gone compared to Zune and it's a bit of a messy UI if you want to do anything more in-depth like organizing.

12Danny123 says:

maybe. I dunno. I think I'm more of a normal person not bothered with it. then a geek. So I don't really care about the limitations

ade333 says:

A normal person expects to easily sync with thier phone... nothing geeky about that.

12Danny123 says:

that is true. I do get a little annoyed with that. Also the fact. when my Xbox music pass is over. I cannot play some of my songs. even know they are installed in my Com

rockstarzzz says:

 Because you didn't "buy" them. You don't own them. Using the music pass, you only rented them till you pay the rent a.k.a. subscription. 

ade333 says:

Daniel, how about doing a very honest in-depth review of the usability of Xbox Music.  I know it's been covered in bits and pieces before, but media consumption is at the center of every ecosystem and MS is blowing it.  Someone who has invested in W8, WP8, RT, and Xbox Music pass certainly has a leg to stand on when they say the experience is SIGNIFICANTLY lacking, yet it feels like MS just pushes it under the rug.  Drawing attention to it will only help, especially if it comes from a place that clearly supports what MS is doing overall
 
 
 
 

Not a bad idea. Will look into it.

MediaCastleX says:

Not to lead anyone away from this awesome site, but that other Windows writer, @thurrot intends to write a BOOK on the subject...its his only means of income. =[

freerider189 says:

Because the UI makes absolutely NO sense at all and it completely ruins your metadata splitting albums up and getting the wrong artwork. It has massive spaces in various areas of the UI which means a ridiculous amount of scrolling and Zune was 1,000,000% better

garak0410 says:

Mainly due to the problems with syncing to Windows Phone 8...I can't stand the "In Collection" messages I get when I want to download music straight to the phone. Album art is also spotty...

R0bR says:

Some of us have Zune Pass music that is centrally stored on a home network for all devices to use which no longer works with Xbox Music. Cloud sync and stream is useless if you travel a lot. I finally was able to get a download from my Surface to store on my home server but it could not play on my Windows 8 laptop even though that device is verified as a device and can play its own downloads. Lastly, after having to reset my Surface it could no longer play the music I downloaded with it. The service went from working very well as Zune to nothing but issues as Xbox Music and very little has been done to address it.

MediaCastleX says:

I have not had that problem as such, yes the cloud sync sometimes doesn't play anything you may have uploaded from other sources if Xbox can't match it, but most of my Music Pass that had current or "good" licenses played alright...and I was finally able to get my playlists with some minor adjustments on my device. I still have certain issues w/ music on my ZuneHD going missing if licenses have lapsed =s

cdb033 says:

All I know is I can't buy music from the store on my 920. I have no idea why, but its getting irritating!!!

ade333 says:

What a huge dissapointment.  By far the worst music app ever.  I can't believe I pay for this shit.  I keep hoping only to be let down time after time.  All I want is BASIC functionality and they can't even deliver that.  I'm starting to realize why people have such strong negative feelings about microsoft. 

MediaCastleX says:

Yes, it's certainly a problem but you really shouldn't let it anger you or sour your feelings. Its software and I should hope that this isn't the one thing in your life that you have to make you happy. That's for androids to do... =[

hysonmb says:

Xbox Music is fine, Xbox Music sync with Windows Phone 8 is a train wreck.
I'm waiting to see a fix for that problem.

ade333 says:

We are all entitled to our opinions, but the only way Xbox Music can be seen as fine is if you use it the same way you use youtube... search for something and play it. Beyond that, the depth to which features are lacking is extensive. For those of us with a subscription, using it is a punch in the face. To those of us who used Zune, it's a punch in the face and a kick in the balls. You know one thing Apple has over Microsoft ? An appreciation for user experience. Honestly, I would be happier if they never released this garbage of an app and just told everyone to wait. It would have been easier to accept.

hysonmb says:

I'm not saying I'm happy with Xbox Music. I'm one of the many who have been clamoring for them to bring Zune back. How they go from what many considered the best media management software to the worst is beyond me.
When I say it's fine, I'm just saying it works. It's not nearly as elegant as other options but it does work. The same cannot be said for things like, syncing a playlist to WP8 or managing podcasts.

MediaCastleX says:

They never should have moved the team so far away to France! It only complicates the hell out of things...how can they collaborate so poorly? They have the technology, come on Mes Amis! =(

Shane says:

Is it possible for them to update just the Xbox music app on wp8?

12Danny123 says:

I honestly think there's gonna be BIG changes in the next big update to Windows 8. which is codenamed Windows Blue :-)

There better be if Microsoft wants to keep customers. If not they'll keep losing customers in droves.

bonsai666 says:

Adding a playlist you created on xbox/pc to a WP8 device, is this possible?

I like xbox music on my phone /Xbox, on the pc it is dire!

evilrobot says:

Don't have it in front of me so I can't say for sure, but I think the playlists we created for my wife's phone on Windows 8 (Xbox Music) just showed on her WP8 Xbox Music app automatically.

jamsjordn says:

Its all cloud driven and should keep both your playlists and music in sync as long as you have the cloud settings turned on.

bonsai666 says:

Ah, think cloud services is turned off. Yes I'm an idiot :-)

thettk says:

Hopefully it fixed the issues I was having on my Surface i.e. it will actually work and play songs. Can't believe I pay for a service that I can't enjoy.

doomtuba says:

Are you still high on the S7 Daniel? Is the battery life acceptable to you? It's such a good looking machine!

Love the S7. Battery life is "ok". 5 hours of solid work out of it. If you turn down the CPU (in power settings) you not only barely notice degradation in performance, you can add 30-45 mins easily to that 5 hours.

bguy_1986 says:

Everybody should take a look at the master list of problems with Xbox Music:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/winphone/forum/wp8-wpmusic/master-lis...

jmmusick says:

I just... I'd like to like Xbox Music. The interface is nice, but the more I use it, the more I miss Spotify. They missed SO many obvious things it's a wonder they released it at all.
Why can't I create a playlist from my phone? 
Why can't I search for songs and add them to playlists from my phone?
Why don't my local files I've added to playlists sync correctly to my phone from Xbox Music on the PC? It results in playlists that are empty (because they're composed of local files) or items missing in playlists. In Spotify, it simply syncs your local files while on the network.
Why can't I select playlists to always be available offline? I don't understand why I need to download songs one by one. I also don't understand why the only bulk downloading I can do is by album.
Why does it take me 4 steps to get to my playlists? I understand it's a hub for all music, but it's freaking annoying going through that much effort to get to a playlist. Same goes for the Windows 8 application.
Why can't the app resume at the Now Playing screen? More importantly, when I click back, why can't it go back to the playlist? Nobody likes going through 4 steps to get to their playlists ESPECIALLY after they're already playing something.
Why when I start playing a song from a playlist in Windows 8 does repeat automatically assume I really only want to listen to that song over and over again? If I play a song from a playlist and click repeat, I want to listen to the whole playlist. That's how every music player works.
Social networking? It's kind of nice to have what I'm listening to pop up on Facebook.
I get it... I'm borderline trolling the comment section. It'd take a whole lot of fixing/changing for me to stick with Xbox Music by the time Spotify comes around. But damn it... Why? It's like no one used any of these services for everyday things.

ade333 says:

Couldn't agree more.  These stupid updates they roll out just get my blood boiling. 

4Tiles says:

I blame the French, they ruined Zune Music, really. Why is there song liking on phone, but not on the Windows 8 app? Where do your song likes or dislikes on phone go? What purpose does it serve to heart a song on phone? Why has every feature of Zune been stripped out little by little? No play counts and no autoplaylists, no social sharing with friends, no more music favorites or favorite artists, no more channels, no more syncing, etc. Microsoft destroyed the software and removed all of it's features and outsourced the whole Xbox Music to a bunch of idiots in France.

arrow22 says:

Can't find any indication that development is now done in France. Where did you hear that?

MediaCastleX says:

You have to look it up, there was a news article posted somewhere...I'll have to look for it but I think you could just search for that info, right?

Rioghalmo says:

I've read that too.

TheJoester09 says:

I always get the "Can't Sync" error on my Surface after it signs in with my MS Account, and nothing seems to fix it. Hopefully this update will.
Also, I REALLY wish they would implement the WP-style alphabetical jumplist into the W8 Xbox Music App. I HATE having to scroll endlessly to get to the bottom of my artist list. Inconsistencies like this are probably what got Sinofsky canned...

MediaCastleX says:

Wait, doesn't your music also come up when you do a search..? =[

TheJoester09 says:

I suppose it does, but that's not nearly as efficient as the jumplist, or even the feature in Zune desktop where you just start typing the name of the artist and it takes you right there. Not to mention all of the problems with performance, crashing, metadata, etc. that have been discussed here to no end. I wish they would have just re-skinned Zune and left it at that. :(

dkp23 says:

Thank god MS paid for my one year sub, while the app is fine to use and especially for me as i just drag and drop, on the surface RT, little buggy and glitchy.  I hope the app and interface is much smoother. 
 
 

jmiller2032 says:

They need a desktop app pronto. I really hope those rumors that surfaced a couple months back about MSFT having one in development are true because Xbox Music is crap. I'm a huge WP guy, but STILL haven't bought a WP8 device because music is far and away the most important function to me. And for the love of God it should make migrating from Zune a simple, automated process and not the hell of re-downloading 2000 tracks. I swear, when MSFT decides something isn't important to their business model they just throw their users to the wolves.

Music and media playback is important on my smartphones too, and on Windows Phone 8, even though I really love the UI, it's a second class citizen.
Just the fact that you can't have independent volume controls on your device, (music playback, seperate from phone volume functionality, so you don't blow your eardrums out when answering a phone call, for example) never mind the awful Xbox Music app, is evidence of this.

Quin 2013 says:

For those that want Zune back, go to the following page to submit your vote and post your thoughts, its the only way they can understand what we want: http://windowsphone.uservoice.com/forums/101801-feature-suggestions/sugg...

xacious says:

I have the old 14.99 monthly pass and all of the previous music I used my credits on can't be synchronized or played on anything. All of my problems started when I upgraded to windows 8 and left mt hd7 for the 920. Microsoft customer care has not been helpful in either explaining this issue or trying to fix it... I'm trying to continue to be patient but im tired of not getting any answers.

MediaCastleX says:

You may specifically be having an issue w/ your account and I recommend you call support for it. I am a Zune Granddaddy too and I really haven't faced such a dilemma... =[

m0ja74 says:

Their are a lot of issues with XBM, but their was much to be desired when Zune first came out as well. I'm sure these issues will be fixed in time.

MediaCastleX says:

I did hear that as well, it took them a good couple of years to make Zune as awesome as it was...remember, real live PEOPLE are actually actively working on code and getting the updates written. What's important is that the foundation is there, its just a shame they didn't use the SAME foundation like I though they did, but I guess there wasn't much left after ripping all the Silverlight out... =[

David Ray says:

The music hub on Windows 8 was the worst functioning app I've used in a long time. Extremely slow, laggy, buggy, and just plain hard to use. I love the look, but didn't like the function. I switched to rdio and use it in the browser until spotify or rdio makes an app for RT models.

MediaCastleX says:

I really wish it WAS a hub, but they don't integrate any apps into it, its just a player app... =/

Xbox Music is even awful in the Surface demos that were working in the mall near me, at the Microsoft kiosks.  The sales guys working there even admitted it's not that great, and it's not.
It's about one hundred steps back from the much nicer Zune software.  Don't know what Microsoft was thinking here.

What MS needs to do is have XBM behave and work the same way as the Zune software did right before they removed it.  My own personal opinion is that paying customers like my self and others polished Zune very well thur feedback and calls to the customer service center, and if MS had simply mirror that to Win8 they would have had an instant winner.  All they had to do was make it better!
 I remember reading blogs all over the net from even Apple fans about how they liked the simplicity and elegance of the zune sofrware.  Anyway, those were my 2 cents.
 

MediaCastleX says:

Well stated...agreed! =[

Depatter says:

Rdio updated their Windows Phone App. IMHO, it's the only decent "full service" music application available on WP8. Why bother with this junk anymore. It isn't even close to ready for a demanding music listeners needs. It was designed for the 90%. Maybe Spotify or Slacker will get around to updating their apps this year for a little variety on the platform, although I still prefer Rdio.

MediaCastleX says:

Have you tried Rhapsody?

textomatic says:

Man I'm so happy I'm still on 7.5.  Music is a big deal for me.  Zune still works on 7.5!  I hope they don't fudge it with 7.8!

Ronnet says:

I know Zune had/has a poor reputation, when I saw Family Guy make fun of it I knew it needed to be replaced. More people know its reputation then have actually seen the software itself!
But that's why they should have just rebranded Zune. It's funny that Zune was the foundation of Windows Phone's UI, Windows Phone was the basis of Windows 8's UI and yet it ended up so different. Microsoft has to rethink how the music player looks (either look at Zune or WP) and the whole Music Store part should be transfered to the Microsoft Store. Having a aweful looking music player that has a home button that takes you to a store is just terrible design.
 
But I'm not too annoyed, I always expected to have VLC replace Microsoft's media apps. I'm willing to give Xbox Music/Video another shot but they need to come up with a big update before VLC launches. They have a headstart so if they can't do that then they aren't worth it.

ejlee072006 says:

Microsoft owes me a ham sandwich!

swanny78 says:

Seriously, MS fixing a slightly sluggish xbm app was a higher priority than proper synching, buggy cloud metadata on wp8, massively reduced music library over Zune, ms need to get their priorities right.

cashcar1979 says:

Xbox Music is the suck...bring back Zune for the love of God.

If there was a "god" XBM would not exist.

blackhawk556 says:

i'm not getting the update at all

Windows 8 o/s on PC or Surface only. Not Windows Phone 8 if that's what you are trying.

blackhawk556 says:

no im trying it on surface manual update not working either.

How do you remove songs from the currently playing list?

I can't even begin to outline the problems I have with XBM on Surface RT and WP8. All I want to do is sync the music library on my devices, is that too much to ask?!
I now have albums with twice the songs in, tracks that error when playing, tracks that say they are downloaded but are actually streaming, tracks that I can play on the surface and stream on WP 8, but when I download the track on my phone it fails to play. Complete and total mess! Backwards step in every way. BRING BACK ZUNE IT WAS AWESOME!

conanheath says:

Want to get MS attention? Hit their pocket book. I'm about to cancel my sub because it is useless to me. I can go to amazon and purchase the music I want and dump it to my devices and have it work. AND, do it all faster than this train wreck. Time is money for me and I'm going to save my money for when this crap app works. If it ever does.

theefman says:

I agree, people still hanging on to their subscriptions makes MS think everything is ok. Once they start to see the cancellations they will wake up and I'd they don't, you're on a better service anyway so you won't care anymore.

MediaCastleX says:

But I want to keep my 10 songs a month! I'll only do what you are suggesting if either they kill that finally or I lose my job. =/

schlubadub says:

Just be glad you're in the US... outside the US we don't get 10 songs at all :(

onetwright says:

Minor annoyance on the phone side...WP7 always showed artist photo on the live tile. WP8 live tile is that lame green square most of the time. Ruins the live tile for me.
Big issues on the computer side include ugly appearance, no sync, duplication of songs for cloud vs. Local copy, no visible volume bar for quick adjust during playback, songs that play on the computer don't play on the phone, artwork takes forever to load when scrolling, no jump to a letter for long lists, can't do smart DJ for more obscure bands, no visual indication in the song list of which songs have DRM issues...I could go on and on. I bragged about Zune but hate using XBM.

The #1 reason I hate it is that it makes WP8, which I generally love, inferior to WP7 for music, which is my #1 usage .

MediaCastleX says:

Sometimes users have different issues, you may have a problem specific to your devices...I highly recommend you contact support. =[

aschettler says:

I absolutely HATE Xbox Music on both Windows 8 and WP8! I had all of my music set just the way I liked it, but Xbox Music went and downloaded every single song in my Cloud Collection THREE TIMES OVER and screwed everything up with the metadata! It took me hours to clean it out and set the metadata straight again. Needless to say, I haven't opened the app since. Next, I tried to transfer my music over with the Windows Phone software. It wouldn't sync any of my music I had downloaded with my Music Pass. Just the ripped stuff and iTunes purchases. Finally, when I tried syncing my Music Pass music using Windows Media Player, it wouldn't either! So I'm now forced to go through all of my music again, find my Xbox Music Pass music that I want to keep, and redownload it since neither Zune, Windows Media Player, nor Xbox Music would sync my licenses. As a long time Zune Pass holder, I'm seriously frustrated! And, there's no way to remove all of the crap I no longer want in my Cloud Collection!

nizzon says:

For all you people with MP3s, take a look at the app Music Info, screw the Xbox Music app, it sucks compared to Music Info. (Windows 8)

its still pretty bad. its stil slow at times, laggy. and I have a playlist of about 40 songs that I can count on crashing the app atleast 5 times before I can get through the laylist. Music info is a nice alternative but just isnt the same. this is on my surface rt version. someone told me the regular windows 8 version is pretty smooth.

Sarang68 says:

Is it because Xbox music not enabled in India that I see no album art. The only art I see are triangles jostling with each other.

EBynum says:

Yeah, XBM is a mess. I've experienced the same issues others have posted.
I'm really hoping Amazon releases an Amazon Cloud Player app for WP8 soon. Anyone heard any rumblings about that?

Rishicash says:

If Microsoft doesn't give a crap about Xbox music then why should we?

thesorehead says:

 

Whats with all the hate for XBM???

 

I've always maintained a personal music collection (up to about 10,000 songs now) but I wanted to discover more music with streaming apps. So I've tried Spotify and Rdio, and now XBM. I prefer XBM on my Win8 PC because discovering related and similar music is so much easier. Plus I have reservations about spreading my personal info too far and wide: if I can keep it to the smallest number of companies possible, I'd like to do that.

iamoniwaban says:

Its still SO VERY SLOW! I appreciate updates and bug fixes but please speed it up. Take away the pretty animations I any thing so this music app is useful..

jbondc says:

Hate Windows 8/Xbox Music.
Upgraded two PC's to Windows 8 and finding it a horrible mess to play and manage music. I have an Android phone, my wife has a Windows 7 phone. We also have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet. The iPod is the only device that syncs music well to the PC and is rather easy to buy and update music.
 The whole subsciption model to music is flawed, I what to *buy* my music. Period. And access that music on any device, any time.
http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/winphone/forum/wp8-wpmusic/master-lis...
Biggest issue is how it's hard to know if music is stored on the device or in the "cloud". I have a computer science degree and can't figure out (those cute icons?). Not that knowing how it works is important, but it just doesn't work properly and I end with e.g. 2-3 duplicate albums that are 'cloud' or 'streaming'.
Microsoft should focus on several core services, xbox (games), document management (skydrive) and office 365. 
Forget about Music and let Amazon, Google and Apple battle it out, I can't imagine Microsoft employees even using W8 Music.

stenrick says:

Sorry the Xbox Music App sucks.  Why didn't they rebrand Zune?  MediaMonkey is a much, much better option.  Automatic Synch to WP8, Playlists, Top Notch Media Management, MP3 Tagging.  Super nice app.  http://www.mediamonkey.com/  - yes it costs money - but people that put this much effort into great apps deserve to be paid.  I have a library with over 45K tracks.  Just try to imagine handling that with XBM or File Explorer.

XBOX Music... ugh... app as a music player: usable, not preferable
Anything else: nooooo
It lacks tons of artist info that ZUNE has and is screwing up my library. Whats worse is that ZUNE for windows' "Find Album Info" goes off of whatever XBOX Music uses instead of the Zune marketplace (went into the marketplace and found the song i was trying to retrieve album info for. But get "no results" with find album info. "Match album info" in Music gave the same results as "Find album info" in zune. XP)
Also,its interface isnt as nice, and i liked the now playing screen of zune more.
Also, phone syncing, videos, better interface (Zune pulls Modern UI (metro) off better than XBOX Music does!), better collection view, etc...
I feel microsoft is actually dilluting its services and modern ui as of late. They are losing touch....