“Metro” is the codename of this Fall’s annual Xbox Live update, which among other things is going to make your dashboard look an awful lot like Bing mixed with Windows Phone 7.
Here’s a breakdown of the major changes you can expect.
The big focus for this update is the integration of Bing and giving greater power to Kinect. You’ll be able to navigate the entire dashboard using Kinect if you want, primarily with voice control. But the look and feel of the new interface comes directly from Windows Phone 7, using a Microsoft design called Metro (hence the update’s codename).
It sounds as if the integration of Bing is going to fundamentally change how a lot of people use their Xbox. Using Kinect’s voice control, you can easily tell your Xbox what you’re looking for, and Bing will bring up results from every media type you use: games, movies, TV, music, and more, from sources that include not just your own media collection but Netflix, Hulu, Zune, and more. Under each search result, you’ll see a rating and an icon, showing what form of media it is. The thinking is that this Bing search function is so simple and powerful — particularly if you own a Kinect sensor — that many gamers may just forego traditional tabbed dashboard navigation in favor of Bing-powered voice search.
Then of course there’s live television. It’s coming, but deals haven’t been finalized yet, so Microsoft’s not saying who they’ve got or when they’ll have it. But according to Gizmodo, some TV networks will be available to view live television, while others will simply offer their top shows as video on demand. No DVR recording function is currently planned, but you will be able to chat with friends while watching live TV.
Another major new addition is sharing Achievements on Facebook. Game developers can set their games so that they automatically update Facebook every time you get a new Achievement, but you’ll always have the option of turning this off. Or you’ll be able to set your system to prompt you each time you get an Achievement, to manually make the Facebook update yourself.
A beta of the new Xbox Live dashboard is supposed to happen sometime in October, with a final release sometime before Christmas.