Xbox LIVE: Fall 2009 Preview

After hearing about all the goodies like Twitter, Facebook and Last.FM integration within the Xbox 360 dashboard, I was quite excited. Of course my friend said, I was already on Twitter and Facebook enough as it was so he didn't quite like how now I could also access both of them when using my Xbox! When these features where announced, I had expected them to released quite shortly thereafter. Of course they weren' Xbox LIVE Preview came and went with no Twitter/Facebook. I was pretty disappointed that they could announce that and not even put the features in one of their betas. They even mentioned that it wouldn't make it into the dashboard until December or so.

Finally just the other week, Major Nelson announced a new Xbox LIVE Preview and that it would include Twitter/Facebook features. Quite surprised and happy, I quickly signed up and a few days later I received an email letting me know I had been accepted! Been a semi-relatively busy girl, I wasn't able to log in to LIVE and download the update until a few days later.

Well worth the wait though! I must say, I did have a bit of course finding the actual applications once I had installed the dashboard update. I could be completely wrong on this, but it looks like there's a new "My Community" section which includes the Twitter and Facebook applications. In fact, I am not sure what to call them, is applications okay, or simply extra panels?

Anyways...the Twitter application is pretty straight forward, login with your Twitter username and password. One thing I didn't like about this is it brings up that ugly Microsoft entry screen. Although I guess this is necessary for people who don't have the chatpad or a keyboard connected to their Xbox. Once logged in you'll see a timeline of your tweets along with your friends' tweets. You can search through tweets and even show the trending topics. You can also see your @replies as well as Direct Messages. These are pretty much the features I look for in a decent twitter client, so I am pretty happy with the progress so far. As long as I can see my friends, @replies and Direct Messages, I am happy!

The Facebook application is also pretty well built. When you login you have the options to display your Xbox LIVE information on your Facebook as well as have the application automatically login. The Home panel basically is your news feed showing you latest status updates, your status, recent photos and your friends lists. The Facebook application is broken down into essentially 4 areas, Home, Profile, Friends and Photos.

The Profile area lets you review your profile and update your status if you'd like. You can also see any photos you've uploaded. In the Friends section you can browse through all your friends and even the friends lists you've created. Xbox even added a list which shows you your friends from Facebook who are also on Xbox LIVE. You can click into friends and view their photos and their profile information. Unfortunately it doesn't look like you can write on their wall, leave comments on wall postings or like any status updates from here. You can however comment and like status updates from the News Feed on the Home panel. I'll assume they'll be building these features in so you can do it when viewing someone profile in the final update.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with the Facebook application. It definitely feels a bit odd navigating through Facebook via the panes, but once you understand where each item is and what you can do in each panel, it's not so bad. I think it's needs a bit more polishing, then I have a feeling it'll be much better.

There was one more application added, which was Last.FM. However to be honest I didn't really play around with it much since I am not a subscribed member of their service. This results in ads being shown every time I switched stations and such. You can pretty much listen to stations you've created, recommended ones and popular stations from the website. The application also supports scrobbling so it'll report back to the website with anything you've listened too. Minus the subscription issue, it's a decent application. applications, awesome, right?! Yeah, pretty much! Biggest gripe...they don't run in the each time you want to access one you need to quit whatever you're doing to access them. I think it'd be awesome to set up hot keys for both Twitter and Facebook. How awesome would it be to update your status while sniping someone in Call of Duty 4 with that amazing Barrett .50cal?! Of course you better be quick about your status updates. That's definitely something Chris would fear and likely hate me for...updating my statuses while playing CoD4 rounds! :P It'd also be nice to have a radio station from playing in the background while you're gaming. I guess one can dream right?! Microsoft is definitely off to a great start with these new Xbox LIVE applications. If you haven't been able to get into the latest Preview which includes these, I'm afraid you may need to wait until December when they're rolled out for everyone. Don't worry though it'll come soon enough!

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Morgan W.

Head over heels for gadgets!