Microsoft has unveiled an update to the Xbox 360 user interface that could give some hints to future Windows operating systems. The update for Xbox replaces the 360′s scrolling bars and green backgrounds in favor of a dynamic splash page with impressive voice activation, gesture control and Bing integration.
Booting up your Xbox will bring up a series of tiles each with different media and news options. There’s a top scrolling bar for movies, music, games, social and more. The clean tile-based interface, called “Metro,” is already widely used in Windows phones and is expected to be the interface for Windows 8.
The tile interface gives the Xbox 360 a cleaner look, though the real gem of Microsoft’s update is the Kinect and Bing integrations. Users can browse and select content using voice commands (Kinect owners, only). Saying, “Xbox, movies,” for example, will open up the movies section. The Kinect, Microsoft’s gesture-based peripheral, will also let users skim and select options just by waving their hands around, much like minority report. The actual sensation is that your TV screen feels a bit like a giant touchscreen phone. There will even be some integration between the phone and Xbox 360, such as using the phone to browse and send content to the screen and using your Windows phone as a remote control
The whole point of the update was to simplify navigation. Bing is a huge part of that. Microsoft’s search engine has played second fiddle to Google but it takes center stage on 360. Users can search for content at any point by selecting the Bing tab or simply saying “Xbox, Bing, [search term].” Rather than bring up a web interface, these Bing searches are local to the content on your Xbox. For example, searching for a movie will bring up the title, related titles and all the ways you can watch or find that title (Hulu, Netflix, etc.). This simplifies content discovery as well how people access their own media. It may also remind some people of how Google TV treats content search.
Mashable will have a more in-depth hands-on once the update is officially launched on Dec. 6, which, by the way, is coming to all 57 million Xbox live users — in 35 countries — at once.
Is the new, phone-like interface a smart move for Xbox 360? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
An Example of a Media Splash Page
Media is front and center with the new Xbox 360 interface, as seen with the HuluPlus app.