The Impetus Behind The New Xbox Experience

Illustration for article titled The Impetus Behind The New Xbox Experience

"Why does this work in Wal-mart" Marc Whitten asked, rhetorically. He's the General Manager for Xbox LIVE and the guy in charge of the new Xbox 360 dashboard system known as The New Xbox Experience. "Visual is a better way of exploring...you're actually good at discerning things visually." And if such is the case, it makes sense why Microsoft has ditched the endless lines of icons and text in their Xbox 360 setup, opting for a minimal experience not so different from Apple's Front Row.

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The current Xbox 360 dash (the blade version) has a problem. While there is plenty of functionality under the hood, the development team can't simply add a new blade any time they wanted to bring new content. Meanwhile, Xbox LIVE hopes to bring users more dynamic content on a daily basis. Something had to give, so Microsoft ditched their dashboard.

"There's no reason we have to decide what we did originally was the right thing," Whitten explains.

Under the new dash, a simple list including categories like "Games" and "Video" will be maliable at any time without a firmware update. And, hopefully, users will also have an easier time discovering features like iPod support with larger, prettier icons and a simpler layout.

And so far, it's all looking pretty good-and very different from Sony's XMB, an interface that we're pretty fond of as well. So what's the one thing Whitten would change about Sony's system?

"I'd ask why some icons are 3D and colorful and others are 2D and dull."

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DISCUSSION

I like it. No, I don't "love" it, but I do really like it. Lately I've been very disappointed in the current interface and wanting a new one. It's very cluttered and cramped in its current form, and I've been looking at it the same way for so long. The new style looks drastically more adjustable and more capable of expanding. It also looks like it can display information much, much better, with less weird scrolling windows and such. Reminds me a lot of the Zune, too, which I hope is a hint at further integration of the two concepts.

This also suggests we'll hopefully get a ton of other new functionality and improvements in the process. Since they have to rebuild the entire interface, maybe we'll get some improvements to things we've been holding out for for a long time. I'd like to see some better media support (maybe they'll update the Media Center Extender to support the same formats that the Media Server functionality does) and better organization of it, better on-screen keyboard (please at least add QWERTY as an option), and other little tweaks along those lines.

Looks like good news overall to me.