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article imageThe Xbox One still isn't a true music player, won't be for months

By James Walker     Jan 15, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft has announced that Xbox One owners won't be able to use their consoles as full media players with background music playback until the summer at the earliest. The hotly anticipated feature is still months away.
The Xbox One has never been capable of playing music in the background. Owners had hoped November 2015's system overhaul with the Windows 10-powered Xbox One New Experience Update would finally introduce the feature but ultimately ended up disappointed.
In response to a hopeful fan's enquiry, Microsoft's head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took to Twitter this week to admit that while work continues the Xbox One won't be able to play music in the background, like a smartphone or computer, until the summer. The news won't please fans who have been waiting years for what appears on the surface to be a basic feature.
The Xbox One includes native support for Microsoft's Groove Music streaming service and can also access third-party apps from the Store. Currently, playing music can only be heard when the app is in the foreground or "snapped" to the side of the screen though, preventing console owners from playing a game in fullscreen mode while keeping the music playing.
The responses to Spencer's tweet were mixed. Some fans bemoaned the feature's continued absence, noting that the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One's main rival, and even the last-generation Xbox 360 are able to run games while playing background music. Others appear pleased to have confirmation it's coming though, even if Microsoft is taking its time to deliver the update.
The delay has been attributed to the Xbox One's new reliance on its Windows 10 underpinnings. It's possible Microsoft is shifting components of the Xbox One's audio system onto its existing audio stack in OneCore, the shared Windows 10 kernel that runs behind-the-scenes on every Windows 10 device. OneCore already supports background audio so future development should be simpler for Microsoft once the change is made.
Platform leader Mike Ybarra has previously noted that Windows 10 is facilitating structural changes to the Xbox One, including refinements that make previously unavailable features like background audio possible. Ybarra said to Windows Central last year: "[Background music] is on the backlog and Phil [Spencer] reminds me almost every day about it. The great thing about Windows 10 on Xbox One is that it really allows us to increase the efficiency of the system, other tasks that take resources to run become easier for us to implement. Background music is something we know our fans want, it's on our list, and we're definitely looking at it."
In the meantime, Microsoft continues to develop other areas of the Xbox One's software. It will continue to ship monthly updates to players throughout 2016 and has also pledged to keep adding to the library of Xbox 360 games playable on Xbox One on a regular basis.
In addition, the company's digital assistant, Cortana, will make its debut on the Xbox One at some point in the next few months. Gamers will be able to take screenshots, start party chats, reply to messages and search the Internet using only their voice and without leaving their game, giving Microsoft's console a unique advantage over Sony's PlayStation 4.
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