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Microsoft Xbox December 2011 Update, transforms console

Xbox owners rejoice! Microsoft is on the Eve of delivering a new dashboard for the Xbox gaming platform that will transform the console into more than just a gaming device. This update, which changes the UI of the system to match that of Windows 8, makes it easier to navigate through the system menus which will be important. Microsoft is working with over 40 content providers from around the world to significantly increase the amount of live and on-demand content available to the Xbox community.

Over the next month, content will be added from Verizon’s FIOS TV, ESPN, and the Syfy channel along with many others. Next year, HBO Go and Comcast’s Xfinity on Demand will come to U.S. customers. Unfortunately, many of the apps from the new providers are only available to customers who purchase an Xbox Live Gold membership subscription.

Microsoft will also be adding new programming to the Xbox experience abroad. Our neighbors to the North, the Canadians, will be getting content from Rogers Media, Maple Leaf Sports, and TMZ, among others. New programming will also roll out in Europe, Australia and Asia.

The new UI takes it’s appearance from the aforementioned Windows 8 Metro interface that was first introduced with Windows Phone 7. With Xbox, the Metro look starts with the content hubs–such as video, games, and social–displayed horizontally across the top of the screen. Selecting a hub shows the rectangular tile Metro-look. Each tile displays content, such as the latest games played or the hottest movies available on demand.

Owners of Kinect devices will notice better voice controls availble as well as being able to use hand gestures to access the UI–as in the popular movie ‘Minority Report’, just without the holography.

The new iteration goes far deeper though. Now users can jump from hub to hub with their voice and select games, movies, and other programming just by uttering the title. It’s not entirely intuitive, though. If a user wants to catch an episode of ‘Top Gear’ for instance, they first need to go to the video hub to request the show.  You can’t simply say ‘Top Gear’ from the main home screen.

Users will also be able to do voice searches using Bing. To do this, they would say “Xbox. Bing. Top Gear”, and the console will display all of the available programming with “Top Gear” in the title.

The results from the Bing queries will also display content from Microsoft’s partners. The idea is to do away with the endless searches for content among the various data houses. So searching for ‘Transformers’ will give customers the opportunity to rent the movie from Vudu, which is Wal-Mart’s video-on-demand service, and Netflix, as well as from Microsoft’s Zune marketplace. Comcast subscribers will be able to find all of its video-on-demand titles from their Xbox, when its application debuts early next year.





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