New look to Xbox 360’s dashboard – now with instant messaging

Xbox 360 dashboard spring

Microsoft has unveiled new details over the Xbox 360’s dashboard interface. The new update – available on May 7th – will include instant messaging that allow Xbox 360 and PC/Mac users to text chat with one another using Windows Live Messenger.

In addition to the firmware update, a new snap-on QWERTY keyboard controller is available, making it easier to type out messages.

“The big news we are integrating instant messaging to live,” said John Rodman, senior product manager for Xbox Live and Xbox 360. “You can instant messenger to the Xbox from anywhere in the messenger family.”

The new feature, available free to Silver and Gold members, will allow users to have six instant message conversations simultaneously – each with multiple contacts. The message boxes will pop-up in a transparent box much like standard game messaging is already treated on the console.

To aided gamers to use instant messaging, Microsoft plans to release this new keyboard attachment (connected via the headphones port) in the near future. As of yet, no price and date have been set, but this will fit neatly between the ‘horns’ of the controller and allows the user to play and type without having to switch devices.

In the meantime, on-screen or USB keyboard will be used to type out messages.

Other new features on the spring update are as follows:

• A new Achievement pop-up will showcase the name of the unlocked Achievement and the gamerscore value without needing to leave the game to check the Achievements list.
• Enhanced family settings features for Xbox Live communications enable different defaults for video chat and voice chat.
• New Xbox Live Marketplace blade lets Xbox Live members access the content they seek – whether it is game content or television shows and movies (available in the United States) – from one place on Xbox Live.
• Updates to Xbox Live Arcade allow gamers to quickly see which Xbox Live Arcade games their friends are playing and join in the fun. Xbox Live members can also compare progress of leaderboard scores and Achievements directly with all friends on their friends list.
• Expanded “Tell a Friend” capabilities make it easier than ever to boast about Achievements and high scores.
• New option in Auto Downloads provides faster access to the entire collection of free, trial-version Xbox Live Arcade games.
• New progressive download controls provide easy access to optimal viewing options by letting people fast-forward, rewind, pause and resume as their video is downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace.
• Extension of the background download functionality will allow users to set their Xbox 360 console to turn off automatically after downloads are complete.

In addition to these new functions will include minor tweaks to the way the dashboard look. These are:

• The name of game in tray is now displayed in the dashboard.
• When the tray icon is highlighted, a list of achievements, game icon and gamerscore for that game is displayed.
• Video trick modes are enabled for content that is being progressively downloaded from Video Marketplace.
• Playback progress bar indicates download completion.
• Improved skip forward, skip back functionality during video playback.
• Switchable aspect ratio now available during video playback (Auto to Letterbox, Zoom, Stretch, Native).
• Background downloads can occur after the console has been turned off – the console will automatically power down when background downloads complete (not enabled by default).
• Earned Achievement notifications now show Achievement and Gamerscore details over the game without having to bring up the guide or leave the game.
• Player and friends lists now quickly show session presence information for quick identification of users that are joinable.
• Marketplace has now been raised to its own Dashboard blade to improve navigation.
• Added Windows Live ID management functionality to Account Management.

Rodman added that Microsoft has decided to stick to major updates twice a year, as a way of giving “a chance to collect our breath, listen to customers and concentrate on the things that people are asking for.”

“We’ve been hearing feedback about how cool IM integration would,” he said.

  • Some really neat features being added and interestingly just after the launch of the ps3.

    Think I’m gonna pick up a 360 just check out some of the games.