Since the Zune HD was released, it’s user interface has been praised. Microsoft liked it so much that they modeled the user interface for the redesigned Windows Phone operating system and, they gave it a name: Metro.
Metro has a nice, clean style that is fresh and, so far, unique to Microsoft. It’s main features are its font and the live tiles. Using an oversize but clean font and not worrying about screen real estate, Microsoft was able to incorporate features that other operating systems could not or, rather, could not do so easily enough.
The live tiles not only represent applications or functions, but they are also ‘living’ in that they can present information from the application or the feature they represent. Windows 8 will feature Metro and so will the XBOX 360.
Microsoft announced at the E3 conference earlier this year that XBOX would get a makeover and, now, they have delivered.
The refresh means that the XBOX has now gone Metro as well.
Aside from the look and feel, perhaps the most notable change is the addition of the ‘app store’. Not like the Apple App Store, but an app store nonetheless. Unfortunately, there isn’t much there yet and the ‘biggie’ apps like the XFinity and YouTube apps won’t be out until early 2012. But, the promise and capability are there and I cannot wait for the actuality of those apps.
So, for what is there, how did they do? I think they did well. The system feels more stable and less hodgepodge than it did. The clean design and pleasing black background as well as the replacement of the ‘busy’ cursor make the XBOX more like a family computer or media hub than a video game console.
Zune integration is even better and, contrary to early published reports, the Zune brand is just as prevalent, if not more so, than it was before.
The tiles, while some were still blank, are a welcome addition and I can think of a lot of uses for them. Game achievements, friends online, etc. are a few things that come to mind.
Using the new interface took about a minute to get used to. It is responsive, very nice looking and easy to navigate. I think they did a better job with the controller interaction than they did with the mouse and keyboard interaction in the Windows 8 developer preview.
I think the real advance for the dashboard is the Kinect integration. Unfortunately, I do not have Kinect yet, so I cannot report on that, but the demo I saw was very impressive.
Installing the update took about 20 minutes and three restarts of the console, but it was trouble free-as has been my experience with XBOX on the whole.
XBOX has been transformed into a powerful but easy to use home media hub. It not only has online access to Netflix, Zune and other media outlets, but it is also able to access your own media on your Windows or Mac computers, a feature that is vital to making XBOX a media hub. My one complaint is that it cannot handle as many codecs that the PS3 can, but XBOX still beats PS3 in every category.
In a future post, I will discuss XBOX as a media hub. Stay tuned for that.
Overall, the new update is pleasing and a welcome change to an already superb product.
(You can read more about the changes here.)