Everybody likes an upgrade, and the Xbox Dashboard is due. Today, Microsoft released its fall Xbox 360 Dashboard update. In the next day or so, Live users will be prompted to update their consoles. The release visually upgrades the 360 interface, speeds it up, and introduces a number of other new services and features.
The list of updates is fairly substantial:
- ESPN: Gamers can now stream sports games, clips, and shows from ESPN and ESPN3.com. These include college sports from outside your area, realtime scores, and 3,500 other sporting events each year. The service will also integrate voice chat.
- Zune Music: The Zune is dying, but its platform is not. Now Xbox owners can purchase music from the service a la cart or buy a Zune Pass, which allows unlimited access to millions of songs for a $15 monthly subscription.
- Netflix search: Search has been added to the Netflix app, allowing users to find content that isn’t immediately browse-able on the 360. The new Wii and PS3 versions of Netflix have this feature.
- Better wireless integration: Now users can see all wireless networks in range when they go into network settings.
- Parental controls: Now parents can turn on a feature called “family programming,” which will disable all mature content on the dashboard and point out some fun family-friendly entertainment.
- Other improvements: voice chat quality has been bumped up, the virtual keyboard should look nicer, it’s easier to create a Gamertag, 100% completed games have a new display for achievements, and the Live Marketplace has been revamped.
The ESPN package is especially appealing. Finding sports events without a cable subscription continues to be a hassle. Having the ability to voice chat with faraway friends during the game could be a lot of fun. Zune Music is also a good service for those interested in music. Hopefully podcasts and other Zune content will also be available.