April 10, 2007 12:22 AM PST
When was the last time you turned on one of your consumer electronic devices
only to find that it had magically acquired a pile of new features? Well for
those of us who own a 360, this scenario is not strange, in fact we've come to
expected it. And true to form Microsoft is prepping another whopper of an
for this spring.
There are far to many new features and improvements to list here, but the
biggest one being discussed is the integration with Windows Messenger. You'll be
able to seamlessly chat between Messenger and 360 friends, from the console or a
PC. Currently the 360 lets you text with either a USB keyboard or the on screen
keyboard, but this summer they are releasing a 'texting' controller. This is a
wireless 360 controller with a qwerty thumb-pad. I'm not so sure I'd be
interested in the new controller, but being able to IM direct from the console
will be very handy indeed. Currently I have to use IM to track down friends for
games when they don't have their consoles booted up yet. Now I won't have to
leave the 360 to do it.
There are a lot of other cool features to check out like improvements to the
achievement system, the download system and parental controls to name a few.
Some of the more exciting features are support for H.264 video and MPEG-4 Part 2
(simple profile) with 2 channel AAC LC. Also added is support for playing
Windows Media protected content (wm-drm) streamed from a PC. This is a
pretty big deal as it opens the 360 up to streaming even more content from your
PC. It may actually help drive H.264 and MP4 as the standards for archiving your
video content since they can also be played by the Apple TV.