It's been 8 months since Microsoft's last update to Dashboard, the operating system of the Xbox 360. My wife's brother incorrectly believes that the old "blade-style" Dashboard is in fact Windows XP and the "New Xbox LIVE Experience" Dashboard (often abbreviated NXE) currently out is Windows Vista. Let me tell you, once a Southern boy gets his mind made up about something, even if it's incorrect, it's best to just leave it alone. Her sister's ex believes that Metallica started as a country band in Greenville, NC, and that their "crossover album", "Enter Sandman" was their first rock album. ("Enter Sandman" is the title track to their 1991 self-titled album, and while it may be their first rock album, they had four metal albums out before it, and no country albums, although vocalist James Hetfield has been known to sing in country bars.) Anyway, NXE put a lot of Xbox LIVE customers off LIVE for up to three weeks, depending upon when they updated (the problem was resolved on November 19 of last year with another update). But once they sorted out all the bugs, as was the case with Windows XP, it turned out to be a gem.
This update makes fewer important changes than NXE, and does not contain the Twitter and Facebook components featured at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) last month. Twitter is an interesting website, but they can keep Facebook. If they had announced a MySpace integration, that would be noteworthy, but for social networking, I haven't seen anything that can unseat MeatSpace just yet. I have maybe four friends on Facebook - meaning, only four people I know have Facebook accounts. One of them is my wife. On MySpace, I have about 40 friends. I'm not a collector; other than a couple bands, it's just people I know in real life. So it is actually useful to me, though lately it's been much more "potentially useful" than useful, but it's nice to have one for what I do (or rather, don't do with it).
The main thing about this update seems to be the addition of a Marketplace for paid clothes and accessories for your Avatar, the little digital character which represents your profile, introduced in NXE last year. Up until this update, Microsoft have released free clothing and accessories to the pool of free items you can choose from every couple months, and I hope they continue to do so. This time it's Kanye West shades, last time it was beach-wear. Usually it's just a couple items sharing a theme; once they added over a dozen shirts for all the soccer teams. My Avatar still wears England's. Not because I watch soccer. I just like the look. (Matter of fact, you can always see my Avatar on this blog over on the right, below the About Me section.) Every update, I check the newest gear against what I already have. Will I pay $1-4 for gear for my Avatar? Probably not, unless it was something really cool. But a lot of people will, so this will make Microsoft some money against what will probably be a very minimal investment. Halo 3 and Fable II accessories are already confirmed, and Microsoft owns those franchises, so they don't have to pay anybody for the rights. They offer a telescope, which C|Net attribute to the LucasArts game "The Curse of Monkey Island", but LucasArts doesn't own the rights to a generic red telescope. The implication is there, but that's it. The telescope, and a rubber chicken, are $2 (160 Microsoft Points) each. Your Avatar can play with a remote-control toy of a Warthog, an off-road vehicle in Halo games, for $4 (320MSP). Other pricing is to be announced.
Other features include savegame timestamping, an improved Achievement browser (not shown at the C|Net link, but seen elsewhere), and a feature to let you watch movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style, with friends online. The library is limited, though, and all participants must not only be Xbox LIVE Gold members, but also Netflix subscribers as well.
This update was initially planned for a week ago, the 20th, but was pushed back to the 11th of August. Way I see it, that's over 3 weeks. Hopefully LIVE works when it comes down the pipes.
//Update: The update is out, and we got it. I believe it is out for everybody now, but at first, only Xbox LIVE Gold members could get it. It didn't offer it to me (my account is only Silver, as I don't play online) and I'd been playing Oblivion for three hours. As soon as Jen signed in, though, it sent it to us. Took about five minutes to download, and installed with no problems. Surprisingly, LIVE worked following the update. The avatar accessories are cool, and there are a ton of designer clothes you can buy as well, from Adidas and Quicksilver, if you're into brands. I want a lightsaber, but it's $5 - for a lightsaber for my avatar to play with. Right... Also, the stormtrooper and Obi-Wan Kenobi outfits are cool, too. Nothing I'd pay for. Avatar clothes and accessories for sale start at 50¢ and go up to $7 (though that's a $5 outfit and $2 helmet sold separately). They say you can win them in games as well, but I'm not sure if old games will be retro-patched to allow the accessories to be won, or if it's new games only. The only other feature I use is rating games. I promptly gave Oblivion my only 5-star rating. I rated Rock Band 2 4-stars, and Guitar Hero: World Tour and Grand Theft Auto 4 3-stars. (And caught some hell from Jen for rating Rock Band 2 below Oblivion, but she can rate 'em both whatever she likes under her own account.)