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Microsoft who already has a relationship with Foxtel and is tipped to bundle the new Telstra Movie service next year, is set to take on the traditional media player with a new a brand Xbox 360 dashboard update that allows users to get access to a host of new entertainment capabilities including new voice and gesture control for TV channel switching.

The update now positions Microsoft’s Xbox360 as “the biggest interactive TV service in the world” according to the company, pitting it against content driven media centres and raising the stakes against its long-time rival, Sony’s PlayStation 3.

The new design of the Xbox 360 delivers a similar look and feel as what is being developed for Windows 8. The most noticeable change made by the update will be to swap the Xbox’s familiar tabbed interface for the so-called Metro look that is based around “tiles”.

Different categories now arrange content in square and oblong webcentric tiles that feed live information to one uniting dashboard. For instance, the ‘social’ heading will feed information relevant to Twitter, Facebook and Kinect video calls.

Anyone with a Kinect controller will benefit from new ways of interacting with their console. ‘Flicking’ through channels is a thing of the past, with the Kinect recognising gestured waves and voice instructions. Now you can wave your arms around to change the channel, or simply yell out the channels name.

 

Microsoft has signed up 40 media firms to provide both live and on-demand movie and TV services for the console however not all of the services available in Australia are known.

Among several new services that are set to be available via the new Xbox 360 dashboard is the BBC iPlayer which will be added to the Xbox in 2012. It’s also tipped that the JB Hi Fi’s new Music Now service could be one of the content channels bundled with the Xbox360 next year. 

No matter where you live, a few features are persistent. Bing search lets you scour content that’s not only on your Xbox but the various Marketplaces as well. Kinect works best for this by letting you search from anywhere in the system, but even if you have to use a gamepad, hitting a few characters will start producing live results. At that point, it’s like Mac OS X’s Spotlight — or any web search with as-you-type results, for that matter.

 

Although content will be tailored to your geographic region, there are a few persistent features. Bing search will not only generate results from the World Wide Web, but it’ll also tap into various marketplaces to spit out the most relevant results. Kinect technology optimises the feature by enabling users to search from anywhere in the system, but even without the motion camera, hitting characters via the gamepad will generate live results. 

Electronista, who have reviewed the updated dashboard, said that gamers will probably find the most help in Beacons. They say “instead of having to sit inside the game you want to play, you can set a Beacon for what you’d like to do and then launch whatever you’d like in the meantime.”


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There’s also a little more dependence on the cloud. Data can now be stored on Xbox Live instead of saving it to your hard drive. It’s a helpful addition if you want to sign onto a foreign Xbox360 or your Slim variant is nearing the red ring of death. Although a useful additive, only saves post the upgrade will benefit.

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