First look at the new Xbox Live: the 5 biggest improvements in this fall’s dashboard update

This fall, the Xbox Live experience will evolve once more. Past dashboard updates have brought us features like Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, ESPN and customizable avatars. So what’s new this time? Yesterday we spoke with Terry Farrell, Senior Product Manager of Xbox, about the coming changes and, for your convenience, stuck the most significant ones in this handy list right here.

1. New design

Aesthetically, the new Xbox Live is very different from the current design. The channels are gone, replaced by a look similar to that of the Windows Phone interface. The update is much cleaner, showing fewer items on screen while still clearly presenting the options that users can navigate to. Plus, the new dashboard can be interacted with using Kinect’s motion and voice commands, so having to switch back and forth between the main controller-directed areas and the specific Kinect areas will soon be a thing of the past.

2. Enhanced performance

Microsoft is also attempting to improve the speed and performance of the menus.  Even though the build that we toured was not final, no hitches or hiccups presented themselves – menus popped up quickly and navigation seemed responsive when using Kinect. Our demo of the dashboard didn’t include advertisements, video or audio clips like the current interface does, however, and that will be the true test of performance. For now, we’re optimistic.

3. Social broadcasting

The Xbox Live team plans on further integrating social networks such as Facebook (and presumably Twitter) into the core gaming experience. One intriguing new idea is beacons. A beacon allows players to broadcast to friends that they want to play a specific game. These broadcasts can be sent through Xbox Live or Facebook, and will feature custom messages that can be attached to the beacon, making it easy for friends and other gamers to get organized and play multiplayer games together online.

4. Achievement sharing

Another social media feature mentioned was the ability to automatically post the Achievements that you unlock to Facebook. Now, that may sound like the biggest source of spam to hit your news feed since Farmville, but rest assured it will come with an option to filter out the insignificant Achievements. For example, your friends will only see that you finished Gears of War 3 on insane difficulty, not that you just finished the tutorial.

5. Search with voice

Xbox is partnering with search engine Bing (they’re both Microsoft products, after all) to streamline the way that consumers find media through their consoles. With a Kinect handy, simply saying, “Xbox, Bing Batman” – the new search technology will pull up any relevant results, from separate sources, and put them on the screen. This includes movies, games, music, Netflix, and Hulu results, all related to Batman. Users save time not only by avoiding the exercise of chicken pecking out the search query on the controller keyboard or the joystick, but also by reducing the number of places needed to look. If The Dark Knight isn’t available on Netflix, but is available on Zune Movies, you’ll know instantly.

And more on the way…

Microsoft will be adding more and more new features, partners, and content to its Xbox Live service well into 2012, helping to solidify the Xbox 360 as a center of entertainment for the home. Although the developers couldn’t give us any specific names, they promised they will be revealing their partnerships with TV cable operators in the near future, and that the services that come out of those partnerships will have features unique to Xbox 360 and its social features built-in. Using voice commands to find TV content in the new search engine and joining friends, chatting, or leaving comments as they watch their favorite TV shows, sports or movies are just two improvements coming. Cloud storage and roaming profiles are also definite possibilities for the future, but Microsoft representatives told us that they are saving those details for a later time.

Are you excited or apprehensive about the new Xbox Live update? Is this a step forward or back? Share your thoughts below.

Sep 9, 2011


  • jmcgrotty - December 6, 2011 2:30 a.m.

    God invented a mute button for a reason. So sick of people using voice commands for anything. Shut the hell up.
  • Jedipimp0712 - September 12, 2011 9:23 a.m.

    pretty psyched for this, might be getting a kinect then if this works great (or i might just wait til the second gen). also, why the hell have they NOT integrated a SEARCH ENGINE YET!? i mean damn, come on. PS3 has had one for how long? oh yeah, thats right. i believe since launch. get on the ball microsoft!
  • waffman11 - September 11, 2011 2:57 p.m.

    So, apart from the Kinect voice commands, the update is just moving the Xbox toward the PS3's interface by a couple of steps. The only real innovation that Microsoft have made is the screening of the Achievement updates. Other than that, it's all stuff that Microsoft should have implemented after they figured out what the PS3 was doing. All this time and social network updates are the most they can improve. Unfortunate, but at least they still rake in the profits like a...big rake in a pile of leaves. Couldn't think of a good "raking" analogy.
  • static360 - September 12, 2011 8:46 a.m.

    I created a profile on this site just to say this. You are an idiot for the statement you just made, how does the interface look remotely close to ps3 interface, isn't PS3 interface the one that needs to change it up a bit
  • litaljohn - September 28, 2011 12:26 a.m.

    how is it remotely? look at the pictures! the sorting layout of the "channels" (best word i could come up with) looks nearly identical. the only difference seems to be that where ps3 would open their categories in a list form, xbox has the information from the channels like apps, games, and social shown in a more visual representation instead of the list. so to steal your own phrase, "you are an idiot for the statement you just made"
  • W4RL0CK30 - September 11, 2011 2:10 p.m.

    It looks great and I don't use Kinect but it still looks easy to navigate, I just hope they don't raise the subscription prices again.
  • isimikehinde - September 11, 2011 3:54 a.m.

    Love, the new interface, looks very similar to the windows 8 interface,its cool.
  • Yeager1122 - September 10, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Some of it sounds cool but the one now works fine ill save final judgement until i see the update myself.
  • AqueousBoy - September 10, 2011 12:55 p.m.

    I think I want to name my son Xbox Bing Batman.
  • Mexiflan - September 10, 2011 7:38 p.m.

    I don't know if i love you for posting that,or hate you because i didn't think of it first.
  • ombranox - December 5, 2011 6:50 p.m.

    Love him. Leave the hating for the son who has to live with the name.
  • mattswain - September 10, 2011 12:28 p.m.

    Will I be able to load my mp3's (legally purchased ones) onto my huge but mostly empty 360 hard disk or will MS still insist that I have to rip music from CDs? The user interface on the 360 is awful and always has been. Microsoft make terrible user interfaces. The proof of this is that every update to the 360 front end, much like with every version of Windows, the look and feel completely changes because they never get it close to right. I reckon that most of the nice features that are described above will be implemented in some spectacularly clunky way that will all get scrapped completely in 12 months time.
  • NeoTechni - September 10, 2011 4:23 p.m.

    Agreed. The fact that they've gone through 5 UIs now shows they cant get it right. Meanwhile the XMB has won awards and people are begging Sony to use it on Vita...
  • Kethmach - September 10, 2011 7:36 p.m.

    What are you two talking about? You want to play MP3's.... plug in your iPod and play them right off the iPod in the game. That's "award winning" idea material that MS did since day one. And it's never changed. If you want to play MP3's from your computer- link your Xbox to your computer and play anything on your computer- movies, mp3's, pictures... since day one five years ago. Are you just trolls or did you seriously not know that???ROFL
  • Jedipimp0712 - September 12, 2011 9:33 a.m.

    TROLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOOLOLOL. now that thats over with, yes. they have. which makes me laugh, because it just shows how lazy people are. i found this out by trying to charge my ipod via my 360. then i played boom boom rocket, to my songs. it was awesome. ha ha
  • Jedipimp0712 - September 12, 2011 9:30 a.m.

    regarding your first statement, just use an external hard drive with all your music on it like the rest of us, or an iPod, which also works and you can even charge it while its plugged into you xbox. and who the hell legally purchases music these days? regarding the interface, i personally dont think its as bad as you make it out to be. yes, windows XP is the best, yes the 360 has gone through a ton of UI updates, but i think they improve on it each and every time. like for example, right now i can fire up my xbox and choose what i want to do, right there. and i know the UI well enough that i can skip all the nonsense i dont use at all. because basically i use netflix, the "My Xbox" and sometimes the games marketplace. as a final note, i would like to say that the PS3 does have the same interface since day one. dont you think that some people would like to have seen it change at all?
  • Baron164 - September 10, 2011 12:15 p.m.

    I love the beacon idea and I'm curious to see how the new dashboard works. What I'm really curious to see the new cloud saving works. I've been dying to hear more about that.
  • Kethmach - September 10, 2011 12:12 p.m.

    By slowly and thoughtfully rolling these ideas out and making sure they're clear and easy for anyone to navigate, Microsoft IS making this an entertainment hub for the living room in ways the PS has failed to do over and over. Sony tried to jump in too fast and fell on it's face again and again. Now that we're seeing how to do it right, again, Sony will come up with a mimic of these features and things will level out again- in about a year (that's typical copy/paste time for Sony).
  • NeoTechni - September 10, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    "Microsoft IS making this an entertainment hub for the living room in ways the PS has failed to do over and over" You have that backwards. PSP and PS3 have had features since day 1 that 360 still doesn't have. Your whole post is idiotic.

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