Microsoft Scrambles to Deliver on Its Story Remix Promises

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos, Windows 10 with 31 Comments

Microsoft Scrambles to Deliver on Its Story Remix Promises

It’s fair to say that the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will fall short of what Microsoft promised at Build 2017. But the software giant is now scrambling to add Story Remix, one of the best Build keynote demos, to Windows 10 in time for the update’s October 17 launch.

One can only imagine that Microsoft feels stung by criticism that it is overpromising and under-delivering with the Fall Creators Update. As I noted back in July, the Windows 10 portion of Microsoft’s Build 2017 keynote was riddled with both untruths and promised Fall Creators Update features that will not, in fact, arrive with this release.

Story Remix was the most impressive Windows 10 demo at Build 2017, and it’s been the subject of much controversy ever since Microsoft unveiled it. The firm (repeatedly) told me and others in the press and blogosphere that Story Remix would be a new Windows 10 app, and in its demo on-stage at the show the next day, the firm showed off amazing—one might say unbelievable—mixed reality capabilities that combined video with animated 3D and augmented reality (AR) objects. The quality level was almost to the level of a Hollywood movie, which further undercut the believability.

Since Build, Microsoft has moved—sometimes scarily quickly, sometimes oddly slowly—to ship new Fall Creators Update features to Windows Insiders for testing. But Story Remix has always been confusing, in part because Microsoft is apparently delivering this functionality as part of the Photos app and not in a brand new and standalone app.

One day after the now-infamous Build 2017 keynote, Microsoft released a new version of the Photos app in Windows 10 to Windows Insiders that included a new Story Remix feature. But all it did was mix photos into slideshows. There were no Mixed Reality features at all, and this functionality duplicated the features from previous solutions like Sway and, worse, Photo Story, an application that dates back about 15 years.

Microsoft attempted to quell complaints by telling fans that it never actually promised Story Remix or other new Windows 10 features from Build in the Fall Creators Update. But as I demonstrated, that is not true: Microsoft executives, standing on stage at Build, repeatedly said that Story Remix and all of the other new features they demonstrated were coming in this release.

Since then, the firm has come clean on at least one of these features—Timeline will be delayed until Windows 10 version 1803, for example—but Story Remix was in a weird limbo. Was it a new app or just new functionality for Photos?

And then the Story Remix features disappeared from Photos. And reappeared. And then disappeared again. Like, seriously.

Then, in a shocking and unexpected move, Microsoft revealed in August that it was actually going to rename the Photos app to Story Remix. This is when I really lost it, and I spent the better part of a day mocking Microsoft on Twitter and getting entangled in arguments with people on the Insider team. The company had jumped the shark. (Later, it stepped back from the cliff and said that it was only testing the new name, and then it finally agreed to stick with the name Photos.)

Finally, Microsoft admitted that Story Remix would arrive in Windows 10 version 1803 when the app’s creator, Chris Pratley, said that it would be made available soon to those few Insiders in the Skip Ahead ring.

So here we are. Mid-September. One month before Microsoft will deliver the Fall Creators Update.

And yep, you guessed it. The schedule has changed yet again.

Story Remix, which will indeed be delivered as new functionality in the Photos app, will arrive separately from, but coincidental to, the Fall Creators Update. It’s being tested now by that small group of Skip Ahead users, and according to Neowin, which found out about this from an Italian blog, Story Remix lets you add 3D objects into photos and adds almost 60 special effects like “Impact – Sand,” “Explosion,” “Rain,” and many others.

The release notes are:

  • Draw on your photos and videos and share an animation of your drawing with friends and family!
  • Enhance your photos with a new, easy-to-use Editor, including improved cropping, new filters and adjustable options like light and clarity.
  • Browse your collection and interact with single images more easily with your mouse and keyboard.
  • Enter full-screen mode from the photo viewer with one click (or use the F11 key).
  • Scroll to zoom! Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out of your pictures.
  • Share or remove entire albums directly from the Albums page.
  • Change album titles by tapping or clicking the text to edit.
  • Easily select and remove photos from your album, via the photo itself or the thumbnail view.
  • Bug fixes.

What’s not clear (to me, at least) is why Neowin believes this app version will arrive in the Store on the same day as the Fall Creators Update. Likewise unclear is whether this update fulfills the functional promises about Story Remix that Microsoft made at Build.

But whatever the schedule, and whatever the delivery method, Microsoft has clearly gotten the message on overpromising and under-delivering. We’ll need to remain vigilant, of course, but it’s a nice turnaround from a company that, frankly, has been worrying me a lot lately.

That said, if Microsoft is serious about delivering Story Remix in October, maybe it should open up the app to more testers first. See? I can always find something to complain about.

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