Xbox 360 2012 Fall Update Beta

I was recently invited to the Xbox 360 2012 Fall Update beta. I’m not going to talk much about the update as it is still in the Beta stage of development. Most of what I’ll blog about today has already been announced at E3 or in press releases. As far as it’s progress is concerned I will say that in my testing I have not found much to be unstable or broken. The console would not auto-log into my gamertag since updating and I was not able to find any way to set “Xbox Companion” to available (Xbox companion is the setting that allows you to connect to the console with the My Xbox app to control the Xbox). The dashboard interface it a little more Windows 8-ish than it used to be but not a huge departure from what it used to be. Browsing the dashboard feels a little snappier when using the Kinect motion controls.

The new “Pin to home” feature was pretty nice. basically it’s like quickplay except you can select what you put there. Basically as of now only apps and games can be pinned. A few things would not pin: the system video player, music player, photo viewer, settings, etc. I thought it would be nice to pin those system apps like the music player which I use to stream music from my computer and the system video player which I use to stream videos. I also thought it would be nice to pin settings or the shut down link in there.

Internet Explorer is the biggest addition in the update. Since launch the Xbox 360 has been missing something that every other console since the Dreamcast has had: a web browser. The 2012 Fall Update to the console aims to change that. No flash support as of yet. Hulu & Netflix don’t seem work via Internet Explorer. Facebook works. Aside from this website, all the websites I’ve developed work well on the 360. On this website there is a problem with the script I use to create the image reflections. That was broken on chrome when it came out too so it may be fixed. Some web videos don’t work well but you can select for 360 IE to use mobile versions which can serve as a workaround to use h.264 videos instead of flash. The browser works well with USB keyboards and the Xbox messenger keyboard. The messenger keyboard is a nicer experience because you can’t use a USB mouse with the console and switching from the controller to the keyboard or the remote to the keyboard is a little cumbersome. I imagine a lot of those messenger keyboards will be sold after the update. I wasn’t able to use the Xbox companion for smartphones to control the Xbox as I was unable to find any way to activate it on the console. This feature may be replaced by the new SmartGlass features.

I don’t have a windows device that will work with SmartGlass so I could not test that but in the “remote devices” section of the settings it did say Get Xbox SmartGlass on Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and Android. I found that sentence to be quite surprising. I would have thought this would be a feature Microsoft would reserve for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. If they do let all devices use SmartGlass this could be a very useful and fun feature for a lot of people who already have android and iOS devices.

In summary, the update is very functional and very stable. I was happy to get invited to beta test the update as it gave me a chance to test my websites on the new IE and see what would break and what wouldn’t. It will be interesting to see how web analytics will view and categorize IE on the 360. It may give IE a huge boost in the “browser wars” to have the millions of consoles sold since 2005 all browsing with IE. It will also be interesting to see if Microsoft will allow any third-party browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox) on the 360 in the future.

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