Microsoft needs to explain changes made in Windows 8/8.1 apps

Microsoft doesn't publish changelogs for updates, with chilling implications -- because there's no way out of a bad Metro patch

On Feb. 10, Microsoft released version 2.2.550 of the Metro Music app -- also known as the "Modern" Music app and/or Xbox Music app -- as well as the Metro Video app 2.2.550 for Windows 8/8.1. Want to know what Microsoft changed from the last version (Jan. 22's version 2.2.444.4)? Tough luck. The most Microsoft will tell you is that both contain "minor fixes and improvements."

Microsoft's Xbox on Windows release details page -- where one would expect to find a changelog -- reads more like advertising copy. Aside from touting the ubiquitous "minor fixes and improvements," you can see such enlightening change entries as "It's now simpler to buy the albums and songs you want to keep forever. You can redeem Microsoft gift cards, too!" Look a little closer and you'll see that the changelog entry for Jan. 22 is copy-and-paste identical to the changelog entry for Nov. 19, 2013. The page isn't a changelog, it's an inside joke.

Microsoft has rules governing the behavior of apps accepted for publication in the Windows Store. Up until last October, every app update submitted to the store had to have descriptions of the changes made in the latest version -- what you and I would call a changelog. For reasons that escape me, on Oct. 17, 2013, the App certification process dropped that stipulation, formerly known as paragraph 6.7. Prior to Oct. 17, 2013, every app submitted for inclusion in the Windows Store had to have a changelog. A very cursory glance at the Xbox on Windows release details page shows that Microsoft didn't even pay lip service to its own rules. Now, there are no rules. Problem solved.

So we end up with the current situation -- where Microsoft's customers try to guess at the changes that have been made. There's a good example of the quandary on the Winbeta notification blog about the Feb. 10 patch. Ron at Winbeta started by saying yesterday:

Microsoft has not provided a change log for the update, which is typical behavior from the devices and services giant. The change log that is currently listed in the app's description page is very old. Not to be outdone, the Video app also received an update, but just like the Music app, there is no updated change log available.

Later, Winbeta modified the page to say, "The Music app and Video app updates are minor, as they both addresses bugs and improve app performance."

But as anyone who's ever used a changelog knows, that raises the question of which changes were made. It's all well and good that Microsoft tells us there's nothing to look at here, move along, move along. But if you're asked to apply updates to your system, isn't it beholden on Microsoft to at least explain what the changes involve?

Comments on that Winbeta blog illustrate the point. Posters say the new version:

Fixes a bug where people with Xbox Music Pass (like me) couldn't sign in (nor use the app...)

Also:

This update also sees the return of 10hr monthly limit bar for non music pass subscribers in setting preferences.

Furthermore:

Now you are able to see the Explcit and Clean version when you download or listening a music

Yet another:

When you are in NOW PLAYING MODE, IN FULL SCREEN, when the song is almost finish to go for the next one, it says you WHAT NEXT (The title of the song ) and what you've been listening to.

Plus:

changes on the now playing screen: it is not under the playlists, but instead it is with Collection, Radio, and Explore.

Done yet?

Now Playing screen has a save button on the right with the full screen button

Nope!

Now Playing screen it shows what song is up next and what was on last

We could do this all day:

songs and albums now note Explicit

(Thanks for the above comments go to anidexlu, PhntmStrngr, System32, and MSFT_Guru.)

That may look like a list of "minor fixes and improvements" to you, but it certainly doesn't to me. The implications are chilling because, to put it simply, there's no way out of a bad Metro app patch. There's no uninstall -- once you have it, you're stuck with it.

Why can't we get a simple, concise list of fixes when new versions roll out of the chute? We're talking Programming 101 here.

This story, "Microsoft needs to explain changes made in Windows 8/8.1 apps," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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