Initial impressions of the new Xbox dashboard are good. The new ‘Metro’ interface is a huge improvement over the previous interface, which was both confusing and boring to look at. Digging deeper into the new tiled interface reveals that at least a few things haven’t changed, the avatar editor being one of them.

Microsoft has called this a media-focused update and with all the additional media services to come, that’s certainly true. Looking at the way they have achieved this, by adding an apps section and the new App Marketplace, Microsoft seems to be following the lead of the Apple store and the Android Marketplace, although at the moment these are just media-based apps.

Metro style interface
The first thing you notice about this interface are the new tiles. Each menu item on the board contains large and small rectangular tiles. In general, large tiles contain prominent things, and smaller tiles contain less important things. The web-style top menu provides a way to quickly jump between menu items and consists of the following items: bing, home, social media, tv, video, games, music, apps, settings.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine was installed with the new update and provides a single place to search across all of your machine content and online content within Xbox Live. First impressions are good. Text search includes predictive search suggestions that are very helpful when you’re trying to type with a standard Xbox controller. You can also filter your results by media type, eg video, music, game, etc.

DVD Tray – The start menu item contains a tile with the current game, the DVD tray.

Quickplay: Show 10 recent games, press X to see game details and reveal another Metro-style interface.

Welcome Video: Dan Marr from ‘Inside Xbox’ presents a short welcome video to show you what’s new on the board.

Announcement: Microsoft continues to sell advertising space on Xbox. The ad shown today was a BT Infinity ad Large Featured Mosaic – Contains a rotating ad for various games, Sky and Lovefilm.

There have been some nice social media integration updates, especially with Facebook.

Friends – A small tile that shows your Xbox Live friends.

Login/Logout – No surprise here, it just allows you to log in/out of profiles

Your Avatar: Takes you to the message center, avatar, and theme settings.

Social Apps – Drill down to find 3 more apps, Video Kinect, Twitter and Facebook

There is no download with this. They have used the usual style of presentation of Twitter with speech bubbles, this time with an animated background. Features include a scrollable Twitter feed, tweet service, free text, and trending searches.

When accessing the new Facebook application, a small download is performed. Quite a small download considering the changes they’ve made.

After that you are prompted for a username and password. A Privacy screen is displayed. There are 2 settings; Shows My Xbox Live information and automatic login with live connection. Selecting the former will display your Xbox Live gamertag along with your Facebook name. This is something you might not want if your co-workers can access your Facebook page. Working from home and having a quick session of Call of Duty at lunchtime wouldn’t look good on all of Facebook.

The new Facebook interface isn’t that different from the old one, the main change is how the app integrates with games. You can now search for Facebook friends on Xbox Live and Xbox Live friends on Facebook. Sending a friend request to any of the services is very easy.

Kinect Games – A small tile for Xbox games, weird place for this, maybe they didn’t have anything else to fill the space.

Only on Xbox: A small tile announcement exclusive to Xbox titles. Once again, a strange place to put this.

Featured Tile – The featured tile contains links to both the new Sky Television app and Lovefilm.

New Sky app
This is a very impressive app from Sky and it is a part of Sky Go app for online devices. Sky subscribers can only register 2 devices on Sky Go, for example an iPad and Xbox 360. To get started with the Sky app, you need to sign in or register a Sky Id. You can do this using a PC beforehand.

The Sky app provides live and on-demand video. The live video selection reveals a plethora of channels, including Sky HD channels. You can also select live video using the built-in Sky scheduler.

Video on demand is where this app really shines. You can drill down into your favorite TV shows to reveal a list of recent episodes. Selecting Sky Atlantic HD and searching for Carnivale reveals 4 recent episodes. Each video has an associated availability, for example. 7 days, a duration and data size in MB, for example. Carnivale S2 E9 was 496MB in size, but it started playing almost instantly after a brief announcement, of course.

The app contains a new Sky community where you can “Like” videos and add a comment via a menu system, or refer a friend. The 4 level multi-choice comment menu system is a bit tricky to use, but it’s better than typing stuff with the controller. Here is an example comment from a comment: ‘I was pleased with – the scene – at the end – Great episode!’. not cool

You can also search for video content by top recommended, most viewed, etc.

The Sky Action wheel (press Y) gives you quick access to main functions, for example, the planner, recent activity, etc. Once you’ve installed the Sky app, the Live TV tile takes you directly to a live Sky TV stream. The video-on-demand tile takes you directly to the Sky Go home page.

LoveFilm App – Another featured downloadable app. I’m not a member and didn’t bother to sign up for the free trial so I don’t have much game with this, however from what I saw it looked very slick with its Metro style interface.

My Video Apps – Drills down into installed video apps, for example, Lovefilm, Zune, and Media Center

Zune Video Marketplace: Zune, but with an improved Metro-style interface Four Ad Tiles: For paid video content, eg from Lovefilm and Zune

My Games – Looks like a complete flat list of installed games, but drilling down into the filter tile reveals another set of tiles with filter options. E.g. Demonstrations, Arcade, etc.

Games Market – New Metropolitan Tile View of Downloadable Games and Content 2 Ad Tiles – Contains Featured Titles.

My Music Apps – Contains a list of your installed music apps, such as Last FM

Zune Music Marketplace: As usual, you can download music videos here, the new metro-style tiled interface looks good. 3 ad tiles – for paid music content

Contains a set of uniformly sized tiles with a list of installed media applications.

App Market: Lists your music, video, and social networking apps and displays a preview tile for each upcoming app. Settings This section contains a nice concise tiled layout. Very similar to what it was before.

If you’re wondering where the new Beacons feature is, you can find it in the Xbox guide. Press the Xbox guide button and it will appear on the home screen.

Saved in the cloud
The cloud appears as a memory device along with the hard drive and thumb drive. The screenshots suggest that each account is allowed around 500MB of storage.

Roaming profiles
This allows you to use your Live account and profile on any Xbox 360 console. We have yet to see this feature.

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