Microsoft rolled out the next update to the Xbox 360 interface with some layout changes as well as content updates. As Microsoft continues their quest to make the Xbox a complete entertainment device, here’s what to expect from their latest updates.
In the new Microsoft Metro style, the Xbox 360 follows in the footsteps of the Windows 8 and Windows Phone interfaces. The tiled squares are clearly being adopted across all Microsoft platforms and is a smart move by Microsoft to add interface uniformity across all of their products.
The first noticeable difference, besides the Metro styling, is the category listing aligned horizontally along the top. My Xbox is now home and My Friends has been changed to social. The other channels remain, but the “Marketplace” word has been removed from the labels. All in all, the new Metro interface allows for added content in the same amount of space without feeling cramped or busy.
Bing Search & Voice Control
Bing search has been integrated into the Xbox as well and is now the first channel in the category listing. The new Bing search integration is a big plus for those tired of searching the Xbox marketplace with a controller. For Kinect owners, Bing can use voice controlled search to find content. Bing searches locally across all services attached to the Xbox and returns results based on the search criteria. From there users decide how to use the content. In the case of a movie, users can choose to purchase the video from the video marketplace or stream it via Netflix.
The process is really well done and although the extensive search is available to those without a Kinect, the voice control experience makes having a Kinect that much more fulfilling.
Kinect – Voice & Motion
We’ve already covered the sound benefits of having a Kinect with the new updates, but that’s not all there is to it. Motion is an essential trait of Kinect and with the Metro styling is used to navigate around the Xbox.
Motioning is a fairly simple idea and in practice works well. Having said that, the voice control is still the preferred way to navigate. Just say ‘Netflix’ and there it is, no need to move your hands or arms around in front of you.
While neither is perfect, they both improve the Xbox experience for the user and advance the Microsoft agenda in a non-intrusive way.
Apps will take some time in updating their interface to mimic the Metro style, but some have already adopted it. Live TV is still a work in progress, which is not unexpected, as the networks try to monetize their content in the most profitable way possible. Until they figure that out, expect Xbox to be in the same boat as others with regards to streaming a large variety of up to date content.
The important thing to take away from the addition of live TV is that it is actually included and available. It’s a nice start to hopefully something much better as time goes on or even for the next-gen console.
For those who want or need to switch between consoles, the Xbox Live Gold membership buys you storage for saved games. A nice little feature that adds something more to an already abundantly feature packed console. While gamers are unlikely to store all their game data in the cloud, the space should allow for the ‘flavor of the week’ game to be saved.
Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the new interface. The Metro styling is something we were pleased with on Microsoft’s other devices so it’s no surprise we find it to be a good fit on the Xbox as well. The categories and channels are better oriented and a greater amount of content is available on a single screen making for a more accessible experience.
The voice and motion controls are really good, but could still use some refining. Having voice control over the entire Xbox library and apps is so much easier than fiddling with remotes or controllers. We expect this to only improve as time goes on.
The evolution of content delivery continues and Microsoft has a decent shot at being one of the leaders in the cable alternative scenario. There isn’t anything more Microsoft can do other than throw around their money on this one. Networks and movie studios want fat pockets and there’s no quick solution to that. Look for Microsoft to expand their available content and eventually make Live TV more of a priority.
Have you received the update yet? How do you like the new interface and layout? Where does Microsoft go from here? Let us know in the comments!
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