The strange disconnect between how the core OS and its bundled apps are updated is one of the weirder aspects of the Windows 10 development cycle. And we’ve really seen that most obviously in recent weeks, where Microsoft has suddenly stepped up the improvements in those apps now that the Creators Update is complete.
Don’t misunderstand: Microsoft can and does update the apps it bundles in Windows 10 at any time. And it even issues major updates, with user experience changes, major new features, and other improvements, from time-to-time. But there’s always a flurry of app changes in the wake of a major Windows 10 version release. And I suspect that is tied to the fact that the versions of those apps that ship with the major Windows 10 version have higher stability and reliability bars to meet. After all, they’re part of that version of Windows.
But the Creators Update is done. And now that we’re in the “magic window” between that completion and the (public) start of the next major version, code-named “Redstone 3,” Microsoft is starting to churn out some pretty significant app updates. And if you’re a Windows Insider who’s already getting bored with the lack of new builds, these app updates are where the fact is now.
This week alone, we’ve seen some interesting changes.
Windows Store. While the Store app itself doesn’t seem like it’s changed much at first, it has actually gotten a pretty major update, with new download visuals (on both the the Downloads and Updates page and on content pages) that include a download speed indicator. The app also provides interactive notifications for those downloads, too, thus supporting a major new Creators Update feature for the first time.
Movies & TV. Microsoft previously unveiled a major new UI change for its Movies & TV app (which I think looks a bit too much like Apple Music). But this week the app was further updated with the first hints of the Project NEON user experience that I wrote about back in February. It’s a bit subtle, and basically amounts to more translucency and animation effects.
Groove. Microsoft’s music app hasn’t picked up the simpler new UI we see in Movies & TV (yet?) but ithas picked up the Project NEON-style subtle translucency and animation effects. You can see this most obviously in the collapsible hamburger menu on the left. But if you view an artist or other content, you’ll see the header animate to a smaller view when you scroll down as well. (That last effect arrived in an earlier update.)
Skype. The Skype Preview was ceremoniously renamed to Skype very late in the Creators Update development cycle in a clear indication that Microsoft believes this app is now ready for prime time. I don’t personally agree—I still rely on the Skype desktop app—but it’s certainly come a long way.
I’m sure there are more examples of these kinds of changes, and more changes coming soon too. But it’s nice to see Microsoft paying attention to these apps: The bundled apps in Windows 10 are mostly an embarrassment when what they should be is a showcase. And they can only get better, in my opinion.