updated 01:50 am EDT, Mon April 9, 2007
Xbox 360 to get IM feature
Microsoft on Monday continued its efforts to expand the Xbox 360 feature set by announcing new instant messaging functions for users of the popular gaming device. On the heels of expanded HD video content and a new HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 Elite, the company now promises users the ability to run Windows Live Messenger on Xbox 360, allowing them to easily connect and chat directly from their television with a network of more than 260 million active users. Expected to be available beginning the week of May 7, the Xbox 360 Spring Update will add the ability to text chat--in addition to video and voice chat functions--with up to six people on a user's contact list at one time--while playing games, listening to music or watching movies.
Microsoft says that that Windows Live Messenger will display "gamertags" for those using IM via its Xbox gaming console, integrating the gaming community with online PC and mobile users. The update will enable text chat via the virtual keyboard accessible on Xbox 360, or by connecting a USB keyboard to the console. In addition, the Redmond-based software giant said it will launch a QWERTY text-input device (pictured), which will connect directly into the Xbox 360 controller to support text and instant messaging.
The Spring Update is also expected to bring a variety of other updates, including a richer Achievement notification pop-up that will showcase the name of the unlocked Achievement and the gamerscore value--without needing to leave the game to check the Achievements list. It will also bring enhanced family settings features for Xbox LIVE communications to allow for different defaults for different for both video chat and voice chat. Other features in the free update will include:
- A new Xbox LIVE Marketplace blade lets Xbox LIVE members access the content they seek -- whether it is game content or TV shows and movies (available in the United States) -- from one place on Xbox LIVE.
- Updates to Xbox LIVE Arcade allow owners to quickly see which Xbox LIVE Arcade games their friends are playing and join in the fun. Xbox LIVE members can also compare progress of leaderboard scores and Achievements directly with all friends on their friends list. Expanded Tell a Friend capabilities make it easier than ever to boast about Achievements and high scores.
- A new option in Auto Downloads provides faster access to the entire collection of free, trial-version Xbox LIVE Arcade games.
- New progressive download controls provide easy access to optimal viewing options by letting people fast-forward, rewind, pause and resume as their video is downloaded from Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
- Extension of the background download functionality will allow owners to set their Xbox 360 console to turn off automatically after downloads are complete.