Microsoft has announced that the next Xbox 360 dashboard will begin roll-out today, hitting three million consoles worldwide. Further waves of updates will arrive in the coming two weeks. The staggered distribution is to "ensure a stable release", apparently.
That fine old military gentleman known as Major Nelson has released a breakdown of the new features. Many of the people reading this will be familiar with them already, thanks to the beta. Everybody else - brace for bullet-points.
- Refreshed Xbox 360 Dashboard. We've updated the UI with a few things, including an updated layout with more tiles, a combined TV & Movies channel and, in the US, a Sports destination.
- Internet Explorer for Xbox. With Internet Explorer on Xbox, you can easily find and view internet content on the biggest screen in the house, including HTML5 videos.
- Recommendations and Ratings. Recommendations will allow you to discover new favorites, generated based on a number of variables including the content you previously viewed, what your friends are consuming and what is most relevant and popular with our Xbox community. You can now rate content yourself and also see Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
- Pinning. Pinning lets you personalize the dashboard by saving your favorite movies, TV shows, games, music, videos and websites right to the home screen. It's as easy as opening an app or a favorite movie and clicking "pin."
- Xbox Video. Formerly called Zune Video Marketplace, Xbox Video offers hundreds of thousands of TV shows and movies for buying or renting in instant HD streaming.
- Recent. Previously called Quick Play, the Recent view gives you a list of movies, games, apps or other types of content that you most recently accessed on the console.
- Enhanced Search. The last Xbox LIVE update brought Bing voice search to Xbox so you could use voice to search for movies, TV shows, actors, directors and artists. This year we added genre search to the list, so now you can search for action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi. Bing voice search now includes results for video across the Web, including YouTube.
- International Expansion of Voice Search. We've expanded our Kinect voice search capabilities to 9 new countries - Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Ireland.
Also commencing roll-out today is Xbox Music, Microsoft's new cloud-powered streaming service, which is designed to share content across Windows 8, tablets, smartphones and Xbox 360. Here's the associated PR bombardment:
- Free streaming music on Windows 8 and Windows RT. Enjoy on-demand access to tens of millions of songs for free on all Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets and PCs. Discovering and enjoying free music on Windows 8 and Windows RT is as easy as typing an artist or song name and hitting "play" - songs are instantly available to stream and for you to create an unlimited amount of playlists.
- Xbox Music Pass. Want unlimited access to the songs and artists you care about, including offline access? Get an Xbox Music Pass for ad-free, unlimited playback of any track in our subscription catalogue across your tablet, PC, phone and Xbox 3601 for £8.99 per month.2 Xbox Music Pass also unlocks unlimited access to tens of thousands of music videos on your Xbox 360.
- Xbox Music Store. Want to own the music you love? The Xbox Music Store is a comprehensive MP3 marketplace giving you the opportunity to purchase a single track or entire album on your Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet or PC and Windows Phone 8.
- Smart DJ. Creating a new form of artist-based radio, the Smart DJ feature is a quick and dynamic way to personalise your collection, discover new favourites and create ultimate playlists by launching instant mixes based on your favourite artists. With unlimited skips and a view of the full recommended music stream, Smart DJ puts you in control of your Internet radio experience.
- Cloud Storage. Available in the coming year, a scan-and-match feature will take you beyond the 30 million tracks globally offered through Xbox Music. It will add all the music you own to your Xbox Music cloud catalogue, including music acquired through other services. This means you can add almost any content you have to your personal Xbox Music collection, even if it's not available in the Xbox Music catalogue.
- Social Music. Xbox Music will add unique social features in the coming year that let you share your music experiences with friends and family.
- Platform Expansion. Xbox Music will become available on other platforms in the coming year.
Finally, Microsoft has revealed that Xbox SmartGlass will launch alongside Windows 8 on 26th October, adding "key foundational experiences for interacting with your Xbox 360, such as dashboard and app navigation and Internet Explorer control, like text input, scrolling and pinch and zoom". Here are eight things you'll be able to do when SmartGlass goes public, and 10 ways it could rock the world of videogames.