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Spring Update: Instant Messaging

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  • Spring Update: Instant Messaging

    May Dashboard Update Detailed
    By: Andy Eddy - "Vidgames"
    April 8th, 2007
    It’s said you need to take the bad with the good.

    Less than two weeks ago, we all were shut out of Xbox Live—just when many of you were itching to take a vacation on the Shivering Isles—for most of a day. But I’m here to tell you that that “bad” indeed does come with a “good.” The “good” is that Microsoft took the online service down to prepare its Spring Dashboard Update, with features that you’ll be able to access when it goes live sometime around May 7.

    Microsoft gave us a preview recently, and here’s a peek at what we were shown:

    Primary among the features is that there’ll be interconnectivity between Xbox Live and Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger). Not only will you be able to chat with Messenger users through Xbox Live, you’ll be able to have a group chat with up to six people. It will show up as an overlay window and, best of all, also be available if you’re playing a game or watching video content on your system.

    According to Jerry Johnson, group product manager for Xbox Live, you be able to re-invite people from your Messenger account to be accessible from your Xbox Live account, and once they accept, they’ll show up on your Friends List with “On Messenger” next to their name. Also, the Xbox Live blade will swap out “Chat” where “Marketplace” currently sits, making it easier to access the various chat functions.

    Marketplace won’t go away—particularly because of how well received it’s been by XBL users—but will become its own separate blade. Additionally, there’ll be some changes to the Marketplace pages: Among them, there’ll be a page showing Microsoft’s various content-provider partners’ logos, which will make it easier to view content from a certain provider, such as just MTV or Cartoon Network.

    Marketplace providers will also have more flexibility to customize the design of their pages. In fact, that will also extend to game makers, so that a demo or trailer page might have its background dynamically switch when you access it to match the theme of the game you’re checking out. (Some users have asked if this will affect themes they’ve paid for, and while it wasn’t something we had thought to ask Microsoft, it seems that this dynamic changeability will be for certain pages, not your system’s main blades.)

    The word “dynamic” came up at one other point, when Johnson said it’d be mch easier to make these kinds of changes to Xbox Live in the future. It’s altogether possible that the dashboard updates won’t require a service outage anymore, but instead the next update will include the ability for Microsoft to make changes on demand and push new features out as it desires, when it desires. (Johnson said that, for St. Patrick’s Day, those running the beta of the dashboard had some of their Xbox Live pages themed for the holiday.) That’ll certainly be a welcome thing over having a big update twice a year (as Microsoft has done it to this point).

    Background Downloading will also be enabled, though it’s a process different from the current Active Downloading function that lets you play a game or access content while data is being downloaded. Let’s say you want to grab a big movie file before heading to bed. The key difference with the new feature is, you’ll be able to set your console up for background downloading of that content and not have to wait to turn off the console before going to bed. In this mode, the console will be in a low-power state to manage the download, then it’ll shut off when it’s done. Also, Johnson said that downloading speed through Xbox Live will be more efficient, perhaps up to three times faster in some cases (not just for Background Downloading, but any downloads).

    The dashboard update will also offer a number of smaller, but quite welcome, features. For example, recognizing that most players, when they get an achievement pop-up indicate one has been met, hit the “jewel” to see what acheivement they received and for how many points, Johnson said that the pop-up will be changed to indicate the name of the achievement and how many points right on the screen, so you can go about your gameplay without needing to exit out for the info.

    Also, a subtle change will be that your Xbox 360 will show you what game or media is in your tray when you access the dashboard. If “Guitar Hero II” is in your drive, the game name will be there instead of “Play Game.” If there’s a DVD or music CD in there, it’ll say “Play DVD” or “Play CD,” rather than you having to open it to see.

    Also, those with you on their Friends list will also get a bit more info on your status. If the game you’re playing is joinable in progress, there’ll be a different icon next to the stick figure man that normally sits there. That will save them from having to enter your profile and see if they can invite you into a game from there. This info (your gamertag and what you’re doing on your Xbox 360) will also be available if you’re on someone Messenger list.

    Johnson indicated that this dashboard update will encompass hundreds of new features, and we were only provided a small list of the main ones. After the update is pushed through, a more complete list will be offered, including the video codecs that are being added to enable you to view more file formats (such as MPEG 4 and H.264 video) via your Xbox 360.

    Wrapping back around to the expanded chat features, we expected that we’d have to keep a USB keyboard handy more often to enable all that extra typing we’ll be doing. However, Microsoft showed us what it has planned for later this summer. Currently going by the extremely descriptive and utilitarian working name “Text Entry Device,” this mini-keyboard will snap onto the bottom of your Xbox 360 controller where the headset normally goes (though rest assured, it’ll have a pass-through port so you’ll still be able to use your headset as well).

    Of course, the device make typing easier, but it’ll also have some other features, such as telling you when you have an incoming chat request by way of a blinking light. The devices we were shown were prototypes, so thereare still design changes to make (such as improving the contrast of the secondary characters, which were pretty hard to see without good room lighting and a magnifying glass) before it’s considered final. There’s also no firm release date other than “this summer,” and Microsoft wouldn’t even offer up a price target for the device.

    The wait is on for all this stuff to materialize, and TeamXbox will bring you updates as we get the information.

  • #2
    Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

    I get it now. The original Xbox was created with a massive controller. After millions of "LOL Its huuuuge" comments permeating the Internet, MS knew that they had to scale it down. So, over the years it got smaller and smaller.

    But now, after years of down-scaling, MS has finally made it back to it's original size. This was all an elaborate scheme to give us guys with big hands an advantage. WE WIN! "LOL, taht ting is huuuuuge."

    MS is now the AT&T of the Internet.


    • #3
      Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

      That's not all "native" controller, Fenix. It's a plug-in attachment you can remove when not in use. When you want to use the keyboard you snap it in, when you just want to game, you take it off.

      I'm pretty excited about both the low-power download mode as well as the new supported codecs. I've been struggling to find a good solution to use my 360 as an all-purpose media player being driven off one of my machines downstairs, but they've just been too restrictive with the types of media I can play without transcoding.
      Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.


      • #4
        Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

        I really like the direction that MS is taking with the Xbox. I've seen almost as much HD content off of marketplace as I have off my cable box, and being able to download movies overnight is something I can't wait to do (some of those video marketplace prices are lower then renting).

        Soo with the new codecs, any chance of playing quicktime movies on the 360 with the H.264 codec?


        • #5
          Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

          Well it's about freakin' time they slapped a keyboard on the controller! In this age of cell phones, it's a wonder what took them so long!

          also... what video marketplace?! I can only seem to get Red vs Blue videos in there.


          • #6
            Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

            Check the seperate video marketplace (not the video section of the general marketplace). They got a bunch of movies and TV shows (a lot of them are in HD).


            • #7
              Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

              I've tried everything I could, found nadda.


              • #8
                Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

                I don't think it's available for Canada... i think US only for the movies and TV stuff.
                Magnum |TG-18th|

                We stand between chaos and order, evil and good, despair and hope - we are the Thin Blue Line, and we will never be broken.


                • #9
                  Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

                  Hey you guys know that you can use your 360 with a non-media centre computer to stream videos off your desktop right?

                  There's two ways you can do it - you can enable Media Sharing in Windows Media Player, or there is a third party software called TVersity Media Server which handles more codecs and can transcode on the fly with little slowdown.

                  I tried using TVersity and it is really good. I had problems because my desktop is on a WiFi connection though and the video couldn't feed fast enough. I will try with a wired connection - it looks pretty promising.

                  Can't wait for the spring update though to make all this stuff work without TVersity.


                  • #10
                    Re: Spring Update: Instant Messaging

                    I'm still having problems getting videos in the correct "format". Anyone have any tips? I've got a bunch of avi files I want to stream over to my xbox but have yet been able to see them on my xbox. I can see the sample vids that come with Vista. And yeah I'm running Vista Biz. Tried in XP with no luck either. Music, Pics and sample vids all work.




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