Xbox 360 Spring Update
Check out the new additions to the Xbox 360 Dashboard.
On May 7, Microsoft's spring update will bring a host of new features to the console. Foremost among them, the ability to add Windows Live Messenger contacts to the friends list. Coming into its own, the Marketplace will now have a dedicated blade in the user interface, and Microsoft also tweaked numerous other features dealing with achievements, downloads, and the friends list.
According to Microsoft, many users have a rather lonely initial experience with Live. By giving users access to their Messenger contacts, Microsoft wanted to give new users a toehold into the world of Live rather than throwing them in headfirst. For new users who have no gamertag friends to speak of, the ability to add Messenger contacts will ease them into the network and help new users identify friends who already have gamertags, but didn't know about them beforehand.
Users will be able to add up to 600 Messenger contacts to their Live account, which is in addition to the 100 gamertag contacts. For the moment, Microsoft will provide basic text-chat functionality with Messenger accounts, although Microsoft indicated that other features like audio and voice might be in the works.
You'll be able to chat with up to six friends at once while playing games or watching movies. Dialog windows will appear seamlessly over anything you're currently doing, allowing you to switch to them at your pleasure. Some games will automatically pause the action if you want to respond; others will continue unimpeded. In addition, your Messenger friends will know what game you're playing, as well as your gamertag. Live will automatically update your screen name to show the following information: "Xbox 360: [the game you are playing]: [your gamertag]." You will also be able to set your gamertag and Windows Live Messenger account status independently of each other, allowing you to appear on or offline to certain groups of users.
To help you sort through your friends and contacts, Microsoft will implement a feature that lets you see who is online, what game they are playing, and if you can quickly join them.
QWERTYMicrosoft will also launch a new text input device that attaches to the bottom of the Xbox 360 controller through the headphone connector. The device will let you chat with friends on a keyboard that is roughly the size of a Sidekick. The device also has keys that light up to alert you of an incoming message. Microsoft has not released the official name or pricing for the add-on device.
MarketplaceMarketplace now gets its own blade within the dashboard. The new blade will be themed independently of your set themes, and will change looks on a constant basis depending on such events like the seasons, holidays, and even special content.
AchievementsA minor tweak sure to make users happy deals with how achievements are presented. Upon earning the achievement, you'll now know what achievement and how many points you earned automatically. No more quitting out of the game to check on what just happened!
DownloadsThe console will receive an auto-shutdown feature and a low-power downloading mode. If you have an existing queue of downloads that you want to run overnight, you'll be able to shift the console into a low-power mode that turns off all the fans. Once the 360 finishes the last of the file transfers, the console will automatically turn off. The new download tools will also let you view partially downloaded video files. You'll even have access to the usual fast-forward, rewind, and pause functions. The video player will also allow for switchable aspect ratios (letterbox, zoom, stretch, native, and auto).
Stay tuned for these updates and many more on May 7.
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