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Checking Out Xbox 360's Latest Coat of Dashboard Paint

We played around with an unfinished version of Microsoft's latest dashboard. Oh, and find out what a Beacon is!

You can tab between each section or swipe with your hand. The older dash still comes up via the Guide button.

You have to respect Microsoft's endless iteration of the Xbox 360's dashboard interface. It might not always turn out particularly well, but it's staggering to look at how much has changed since Microsoft introduced this console back in 2005. Such drastic changes would usually happen in a new machine, but the dashboard goes under the knife every year.

For better or worse, Sony has done little to change the overall look of the Cross Media Bar, instead focusing on implementing additional features (i.e. PlayStation Plus).

Remember this?! How far we've come.

Microsoft invited a few of us in the office to check out an in-development version of the latest dashboard update last week. Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn't talking about the feature we were the most excited about: cloud saves. The company would only confirm cloud saves are coming in this update, and the team working on it was currently hammering out all the details. Microsoft did made it sound like cloud saves would not be an unlimited affair, but specifics are being ironed out.

Our demo mainly focused how Microsoft has been working to increase what it calls "discoverability." When Xbox Live was originally conceived, it wasn't designed to handle the amount of content that's been pushed onto server farms since. Dozens of games? Sure. Thousands? Not really, which means content ends up getting pushed into the background and quickly forgotten. It hurts everyone involved.

This update goes a step forward to making it easier to find content, through a combination of Bing Search and Kinect. You don't need Kinect to use Bing Search, but does prove useful. Say "Harry Potter" and everything related to Harry Potter on the service comes up. Ask it to sort by movies and the movies will be pushed to the front. Same goes for games, television, music, etc. It's far easier than digging into each individual application, searching desperately for a way to find what you want.

This search aggregation will not extend to Facebook and Twitter, but both of those applications will be updated to better fit the interface introduced with the Kinect last fall. Much of this update helps brings the interfaces together--mostly in a good way. If you want to tab between the different sections with a controller, you can. If you want to wave your hand around, you can. Microsoft's just ensuring there's not an unnecessary interface change that ultimately comes across as confusing.

Quickplay provides easy access to recently used games and now applications, too.

Kinect integration is all over the place now and makes way more sense. There was no clear distinction between what you could and couldn't say last time around. Now, if there are big, bold white words on the screen (which is basically most of the screen), you can say it out loud. That includes movie titles, game names, applications, etc. You can finally both open and close the disc tray, too. Madness!

One thing you can't do is call up features that aren't on-screen at the time. For example, you cannot say "Xbox Netflix" when Netflix isn't featured somewhere in front of you. You'd have to say "Xbox Video" and then "Xbox Netflix." One way around that, however, is the new "Quickplay" option.

Quickplay replaces the Games Library and comes packed with some nifty tweaks. One, it's not featured on a page you need to flick over to; it's there when the machine boots up. Two, it also includes applications, so if you want to hop right into Netflix, you no longer need to tab over the Video Marketplace for the billionth time.

I also learned what the hell a "Beacon" is at this meeting. Every time I read a press release detailing the Beacon program, I'd make note of it...then immediately forget what it was. Beacons represent the first baby step to introduce scheduling into Xbox Live, an evolution of the game invite. You can send out a Beacon to your entire friends list, asking for people to join a game of Halo: Reach. The Beacon can even be pushed out to Facebook (but not Twitter, for whatever reason). Right now, there isn't much user control over the Beacon. You cannot set a Beacon to blast out at 6:00 p.m. When you set up a Beacon, it goes out. Being able to have more hands-on control over its release would go a long way, but that's not coming in this update.

Based on what we've seen and played with, this feels like a solid improvement. There are bugs, there are features we still haven't seen and the Kinect wasn't really cooperating in our demo, but we should we have a better idea soon, as Microsoft said a beta should go live sometime in early October.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
235 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek
You can tab between each section or swipe with your hand. The older dash still comes up via the Guide button.

You have to respect Microsoft's endless iteration of the Xbox 360's dashboard interface. It might not always turn out particularly well, but it's staggering to look at how much has changed since Microsoft introduced this console back in 2005. Such drastic changes would usually happen in a new machine, but the dashboard goes under the knife every year.

For better or worse, Sony has done little to change the overall look of the Cross Media Bar, instead focusing on implementing additional features (i.e. PlayStation Plus).

Remember this?! How far we've come.

Microsoft invited a few of us in the office to check out an in-development version of the latest dashboard update last week. Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn't talking about the feature we were the most excited about: cloud saves. The company would only confirm cloud saves are coming in this update, and the team working on it was currently hammering out all the details. Microsoft did made it sound like cloud saves would not be an unlimited affair, but specifics are being ironed out.

Our demo mainly focused how Microsoft has been working to increase what it calls "discoverability." When Xbox Live was originally conceived, it wasn't designed to handle the amount of content that's been pushed onto server farms since. Dozens of games? Sure. Thousands? Not really, which means content ends up getting pushed into the background and quickly forgotten. It hurts everyone involved.

This update goes a step forward to making it easier to find content, through a combination of Bing Search and Kinect. You don't need Kinect to use Bing Search, but does prove useful. Say "Harry Potter" and everything related to Harry Potter on the service comes up. Ask it to sort by movies and the movies will be pushed to the front. Same goes for games, television, music, etc. It's far easier than digging into each individual application, searching desperately for a way to find what you want.

This search aggregation will not extend to Facebook and Twitter, but both of those applications will be updated to better fit the interface introduced with the Kinect last fall. Much of this update helps brings the interfaces together--mostly in a good way. If you want to tab between the different sections with a controller, you can. If you want to wave your hand around, you can. Microsoft's just ensuring there's not an unnecessary interface change that ultimately comes across as confusing.

Quickplay provides easy access to recently used games and now applications, too.

Kinect integration is all over the place now and makes way more sense. There was no clear distinction between what you could and couldn't say last time around. Now, if there are big, bold white words on the screen (which is basically most of the screen), you can say it out loud. That includes movie titles, game names, applications, etc. You can finally both open and close the disc tray, too. Madness!

One thing you can't do is call up features that aren't on-screen at the time. For example, you cannot say "Xbox Netflix" when Netflix isn't featured somewhere in front of you. You'd have to say "Xbox Video" and then "Xbox Netflix." One way around that, however, is the new "Quickplay" option.

Quickplay replaces the Games Library and comes packed with some nifty tweaks. One, it's not featured on a page you need to flick over to; it's there when the machine boots up. Two, it also includes applications, so if you want to hop right into Netflix, you no longer need to tab over the Video Marketplace for the billionth time.

I also learned what the hell a "Beacon" is at this meeting. Every time I read a press release detailing the Beacon program, I'd make note of it...then immediately forget what it was. Beacons represent the first baby step to introduce scheduling into Xbox Live, an evolution of the game invite. You can send out a Beacon to your entire friends list, asking for people to join a game of Halo: Reach. The Beacon can even be pushed out to Facebook (but not Twitter, for whatever reason). Right now, there isn't much user control over the Beacon. You cannot set a Beacon to blast out at 6:00 p.m. When you set up a Beacon, it goes out. Being able to have more hands-on control over its release would go a long way, but that's not coming in this update.

Based on what we've seen and played with, this feels like a solid improvement. There are bugs, there are features we still haven't seen and the Kinect wasn't really cooperating in our demo, but we should we have a better idea soon, as Microsoft said a beta should go live sometime in early October.

Staff
Edited by CameraGuyKurt

wowzers!

Edit: Finally!

PS - I'm actually interested to see this stuff launch. I might actually use Kinect for dash navigation now.

Posted by MosesWalker

Still missing the blades.

Posted by amorbis

Interesting to see they are still iterating on it.

Posted by Hoffafiles

Hmm, looks promising?

Posted by Kirbichu54

"Xbox Video Porn"

Posted by Daveyo520

I want it now.

Posted by Scodiac

Looking forward to it.

Edited by ProfessorEss

I like Segoe UI Light so much I have trouble disliking any of Microsoft's stuff that uses it like this. 
 
Very nice. So fucking clean.

Posted by Aishan

The Beacon thing actually sounds pretty useful. Can beacon myself for AC:R while I'm off exploring Skyrim!

Edited by Fracture

first? 
 
I really want more kinect in the xbox. As lazy as it feels it's still sweet.

Posted by Doctorchimp

The Quickplay homescreen sounds like it's going to be less annoying.

Posted by thenexus

Great UI Design is about offering the same or in most cases even more but make it look cleaner and more open. (What I do)
It is always a challenge but it is great when you pill it off. I have loved the direction this has taken and these look like great improvements still.

Posted by Mijati

Looks awesome, looking forward to this.

Posted by BinaryDragon

I wish companies like Apple and Microsoft would stop putting out information about their new OSs, with so long to wait I'm actually bored by it. Plus I kinda am resentful of the product by the time the update comes out. iOS5 is a prime example. So bored of that wait.

Edited by Zidd

Looking forward to the improved Kinect support. Hopefully they will make Kinect meaningful in a Netflix title update. Not having instant queue access is kind of stupid considering the entire service is practically built around it.

Posted by MaxOpower

 Like they way it looks like windows 8. Like that M$ is trying to create a "cross platform" look. 

Posted by Slaker117

Looks nice.

Posted by MEATBALL

It reads quite promising, it's also nice to be getting a very new look for the dashboard. I wish Sony would grab some of the Playstation Plus money and take a leaf out of Microsoft's book with an XMB re-design, at the moment many of the XMB's features feel much more bolted on. I'd love to see them better integrated.

Edited by OtakuGamer

Microsoft and Lucasfilm should team up together and break everything that isn’t broken. I really don't like this new design, looks fucking terrible.

Posted by l3illyl3ob

Looks like the Windows 8 and the Windows Phone UIs.  Seems like Microsoft is just switching over every single platform they have to a unified UI.

Posted by big_jon

I like that it looks like my WP7.

Posted by crusader8463

I really should plug in my 360 someday. I think it's about 2-3 UI iterations behind the current ones.

Posted by ViciousReiven

Very cool, big improvement over previous updates, if they can just make the Beacons thing have more options this would be pretty amazing.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

Looking forward to the update as a Kinect owner. I'm most excited about features they haven't revealed, though.

Posted by Falconer

Expect this UI to be permanent going forward, with only incremental tweaks and improvements.

Why? If you aren't already aware, Microsoft is pushing out a unified UI across it's three major products (Windows, Xbox, and Phone).

Posted by Vinny_Says

They are just going to iterate all the way up to the next console, using the last xbox360 interface for the first "xbox3" version of the dashboard...

Posted by crusader8463
@l3illyl3ob said:
Looks like the Windows 8 and the Windows Phone UIs.  Seems like Microsoft is just switching over every single platform they have to a unified UI.
They said a while back that that's their plan. They want to make it all connected to each other so that anyone buying a Microsoft product will "immediately" know how to use it because it's all the same across the board. No matter what your entry point is.
Posted by Sogeman

Looks, great...if you like ads that are bigger than the actual navigation

Posted by Solh0und

It looks ok. I prefer the blue dashboard menus over the white ones.

Posted by I_smell

HMMMM this looks familiar.

Yo I bet it still has a tonne o fuckin adverts.

Edited by ChrisInCali

I still prefer Sony's XMB.  The 360 can "redesign" they dash all they want, but it continues to be the same shit regardless.  The PS3 gets me quick access to my pictures, videos, music, and games... no ads, no weird swiping effect that fucks with my eyes.  Also, the PS3 supports so many video formats, I have tons of HD shows/movies/home videos loaded on it's hard-drive, and a bunch of my high-res photos.  
 
The 360 still doesn't let you load stuff on it, you have to use a thumbdrive.  It's photo playback isn't as good as the PS3's, and it supports way less video formats.  The PS3's XMB may look very plain, but it's fast, to the point, and functions very well for my needs.  I don't need a useless avatar bouncing around to make me happy.

Posted by 617_jbug

Did they talk about Youtube? I want to be able to sign into my Youtube account and have all my subscriptions vids show up.

Posted by adoggz

man blades, that shit feels so last gen like " i'm taking my xbox to a lan party so we can system link a few of them together to play some halo and theres blades there".

Posted by Bane

I hope they have a dark theme. All that white coming from my TV is blinding at night.

Posted by CapnMikeM

but what happens to all my dynamic themes....wah wah!

Posted by Option

Interesting, cant wait to try this update out.

Posted by Vexxan

Looks...okay.

Edited by GunsAreDrawn

My favorite dashboard has to be the blue one, since it wasn't too bright and I think it looked better appearance wise. The one on xbox just now was annoying because they put in update that makes you unable to choose gamer pics and themes you downloaded from a U.S. account when you arre from another country.

Posted by bcrt2000

@ChrisInCali said:

I still prefer Sony's XMB. The 360 can "redesign" they dash all they want, but it continues to be the same shit regardless. The PS3 gets me quick access to my pictures, videos, music, and games... no ads, no weird swiping effect that fucks with my eyes. Also, the PS3 supports so many video formats, I have tons of HD shows/movies/home videos loaded on it's hard-drive, and a bunch of my high-res photos. The 360 still doesn't let you load stuff on it, you have to use a thumbdrive. It's photo playback isn't as good as the PS3's, and it supports way less video formats. The PS3's XMB my look very plain, but it's fast, to the point, and functions very well for my needs. I don't need a useless avatar bouncing around to make me happy.

You need to use Windows 7 windows media centre, but with that the 360 supports more formats than the PS3. Basically anything that you can play on your PC you can stream to your 360 using WMC.

Posted by TomA

So by discovarability they mean ads right? 

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I still miss The Blades. 

Moderator
Posted by amomjc

@BinaryDragon said:

I wish companies like Apple and Microsoft would stop putting out information about their new OSs, with so long to wait I'm actually bored by it. Plus I kinda am resentful of the product by the time the update comes out. iOS5 is a prime example. So bored of that wait.

Your a minority. I use to think like that, especially about that new update to OS4 that introduced a lot to my iPad. I got bored of hearing about it, but I knew the day it came out and was talking about it everywhere. They don't really care whether or not a small group gets bored, but the idea that word of mouth stretches farther and that hype gets you addicted is what they are after. After all, you still looked at this post, just like they want you to. >:)

Posted by Enigma777

Looking forward to this. The current dashboard is an absolute mess.

Posted by kerikxi

I'm not the only one who misses the blades, right? It seemed to work just fine to me...

Posted by Ronald

It has been a long way since back when Major Nelson had 100 gamer score.

Posted by AuthenticM

There's definitely some Windows 8 influence in there.

Posted by DJJoeJoe
@ShaggyChu said:

Expect this UI to be permanent going forward, with only incremental tweaks and improvements.

Why? If you aren't already aware, Microsoft is pushing out a unified UI across it's three major products (Windows, Xbox, and Phone).

Also this will be the, third? overhaul to the UI since the console's launch. Think that's 'enough' really, I love that they keep pushing this sort of support for the console but it kinda just makes me more spoiled every time they do it, I just want it more and faster every time.
Posted by Captain_Felafel

Interesting particular of note, the original blades interface puts "games" and the, then, game-specific "marketplace" on either end of the starting page. This new interface pushes the "games" tab 1, 2, 3 spaces over from your starting position, inserting "social", "tv" and "video" between you and "games". Interesting to see where Microsoft was with this system 6 years ago and where they are now. Putting "tv" so close to the starting point really drives home their expressed commitment to the whole set-top box thing.

Posted by Aus_azn

Still think the blades was the best iteration of the dashboard. NXE sucked (except the party chat). I kinda want to try NNXE, but I don't even have an Xbox anymore. 
 
¯\_(ツ)_/¯