You've waited patiently. Well, you've waited. And now the wait is almost over: On December 6, Microsoft will publicly deliver its long-awaited Fall 2011 Dashboard Update for the Xbox 360.
(At least that's what all the blogs are saying today, and they're all crediting Microsoft for "announcing" it, though none have provided a link. And I can't find one. I've looked. And looked and looked and looked. Update: A few minutes after I posted this, Microsoft finally updated its Xbox blog.)
So. Assuming this is true, the Fall 2011 Dashboard Update is currently in private beta and I'm not allowed to discuss my experiences yet. But based on publicly released information, the Fall 2011 Dashboard Update will include:
New look and feel. In keeping with Microsoft's new love affair of the boxy Metro-style UI that will heavily date all of the software giant's products from this era, the new Dashboard will feature--wait for it--a boxy, Metro-style UI. You can see a preview of it on the Xbox web site today.
Internet TV. A host of media-related services is coming online though it will vary by region and by which services you already use. This includes live TV and streaming movies and music. Partners include BBC, HBO, Comcast, Syfy and Bravo, among many others.
Cloud integration. You can now move your profile around from console to console more easily thanks to cloud integration. And you can store game saves in the cloud too, so you can just pick up where you left off on a different console too.
Kinect improvements. Microsoft has added a ton of new voice control features that require the Kinect motion sensor add-on, as well as "full motion" control.
Beacons. You can now basically set up a calendar-like appointment advertising to friends that you'll be playing a particular game at a particular time.
New apps. Most people don't really think in terms of "apps" on the Xbox 360, but every time you enter a different experience, like Zune Movies or Netflix, that's an app. And there will be more of them starting with this update, including YouTube, Bing, LoveFilm, Daily Motion, and UFC.
Other changes. As on Windows Phone 7.5, your avatar is now animated. There's better Facebook integration. You can control the Xbox 360 and interact with certain experiences using the Xbox 360 Companion app for Windows Phone. And, as they say, more!
Free. As with previous Xbox 360 software updates, the Fall 2011 Dashboard Update will be free and made available to all users. In fact, you pretty much have no choice but to install it as you won't be able to access most Xbox LIVE features until you do.
I'll be writing up the Fall 2011 Dashboard when it's available, of course.