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Wednesday May 9, 2007 7:46 am

Xbox 360 Spring Dashboard Update Hits Wednesday

xbox 360 dashboard messaging

The long-awaited Spring Update is finally set for launch tomorrow (Wednesday), with the headline feature being all-new Xbox Live integration with MSN/Windows Live Messenger. This is the third such major dashboard update in the life of the Xbox 360, and contains a long list of new features – but it’s ultimately the weakest of those three releases.

Being able to instant message while gaming, watching movies or doing whatever else on the 360 is certainly a nifty feature, but isn’t going to be worth taking advantage of for the average user – at least not until the mini-QWERTY keyboard is released. USB keyboard support is being added, but unless you’re sitting fairly close (or wireless keyboards are supported), you’ll be stuck typing with the virtual keyboard. And from having sent hundreds over messages over Live, let me say that using that is nothing short of an exercise in patience.

In addition to the IMing capabilities included in the update, the following features have been added:

  • On-screen pop-ups that immediately display the name and gamerscore value of a just accomplished Achievement, allowing gamers to see their progress without leaving or pausing the game. 
  • An even safer way to communicate through Xbox LIVE with enhanced family settings that enable different default settings for video chat and voice chat.
  • A new, standalone Xbox LIVE Marketplace blade houses all Xbox LIVE Marketplace content in one easy to navigate space.
  • Xbox LIVE Arcade enhancements that showcase what games friends are playing directly from the friends list. Boasting about high scores, comparing progress and checking out leaderboards are all easier now as well.
  • Faster access to free, trial version of Xbox LIVE Arcade games through an improved Auto Downloads feature.
  • The ability to fast-forward, pause and rewind video as it is being downloaded on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
  • Owners can now set their consoles to turn off after downloading content from Xbox LIVE Marketplace to help save energy, and download speeds have been increased.

The Marketplace blade will certainly be useful, but what Microsoft is really trying to do is simply make it as easy as possible for you to hand over those Microsoft Points. But the new Achievement notification will be sure to go over well, especially with me, as I’m the type of person who always checks out what achievement I just unlocked - even if I’m in a multiplayer game.

For more details on the free download and a full list of features, check out this page on Xbox.com.

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