We have all seen the increased pace at which Microsoft is releasing updates for its software, apps and services over the last year or so and the Xbox One team has been a big participant in the idea of pushing regular updates to users.

The way they have done this is through the Xbox One Preview Program which was announced in February 2014.

What typically occurs is a during the month prior participants in the preview program are able to download and install the next console/dashboard update for the Xbox One and then put it through its paces.  Microsoft provides a Preview Program app that is installed and each month it summarizes the new update and then provides quests to follow to test those new features out.  There are also survey;s etc. to help Microsoft collect even more insight into what works and what does not.

Well after a break for the holidays the Xbox One Preview Program is back at work with the first new preview release for 2015. This update, which will come out for all Xbox One users in February, brings along several new features (via Major Nelson’s site):

  • Game hubs – New in preview this month, game hubs are the go-to centers for all sorts of interesting content around your favorite games. Every Xbox One game will have a game hub where you can see which of your friends are playing the game, compete with your friends in game leaderboards, dive into the coolest game clips and game broadcasts, and follow the game’s VIPs and top players.
  • Custom backgrounds and tile transparency – We listened to your feedback and added additional tile transparency to the Home tiles to make your background images more visible.
  • TV updates – We’re releasing a lot of updates to the live TV experience and features are being released to additional countries in preview this month:
    • OneGuide for the Netherlands – Support for OneGuide will continue in preview for the Netherlands and the missing channels for the Netherlands OneGuide listings will become available over the next few weeks.
    • TV trending in OneGuide – As you scan the detailed OneGuide TV listings, you can see which shows are trending by a “Trending on Xbox” note and associated icon. Xbox – live TV trending is based on the number of Xbox One owners currently watching that show in each country, pulled from anonymous data collected at a national level. Currently, Xbox TV trending is available to all members in the U.S., UK and Canada.
    • Live TV trending (new countries) – France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico will begin seeing live TV trending data in Xbox OneGuide.
    • Improved control of TVs, set-top boxes and audio/video receivers – Xbox One will work even better with more devices. This month’s preview release contains updates to the IR blasting database for new models and addresses issues reported by our fan community.
    • “Trick play” with Xbox One Digital TV Tuner – Preview members with the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner in supported countries (UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) will now be able to see video frames when fast-forwarding or rewinding paused TV on your Xbox One consoles.
    • Live TV streaming on Windows Phone and Android – We are continuing the preview of live TV streaming on Windows Phone and Android devices for Xbox One Digital TV Tuner owners in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In an email to all current preview program participants the Xbox One Preview Program team shared some numbers for the program from 2014:

  • 6,140,355 Preview points earned on the My stats leaderboards.
  • 360,951 quests completed.
  • 22,723 posts in the Xbox.com Preview forums.
  • 9 Preview update waves in 2014.

If anyone is interested in joining the preview program just add me on Xbox Live (Gamertag – WinObs) and send me a message asking to be added so I can request an invite for you.