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Marc Witten was one of the first guys to work on the original Xbox Live team. He's been involved with all the dashboard updates over the years and considers the opportunity to run the Xbox Live team the best job at Microsoft.

Where did the idea to overhaul the Xbox 360 come from?

We started thinking about how we'd like to redefine the Xbox 360 experience. There were a few things that led to that. We had over 12 million people connected to Live and we talked to many of them to find out what their concerns were, what worked well and what didn't.

What were the problem areas?

Many Xbox owners didn't know all the things it could do. They might not have known they could look at photos. They might not know they could plug in their iPods or watch movies. We found out that when they did know, they were much happier and felt like they were getting more value.

We thought Marketplace was getting overcrowded too...

When we designed our Marketplace we expected 100-200 items to be in there. That was not our smartest moment ever, but today we're sitting with about 20,000 items in the system and that number is growing really fast. We found out from our customers that it's too hard to find content and people get lost in the user interface.

And what are the biggest steps forward?

We wanted a continuous drive toward social networking. This was core to us when we developed Xbox Live, that's why we ship with a headset in every box. It's something we're very proud of. Those 12 million people on Xbox Live aren't just connected to us, they're connected together. We're aiming to lower barriers on how easy it is to find your friends, get into games and stay connected.

How is the new dashboard divided up?

The new user interface is a series of channels. The My Xbox channel shows me all the things I want to do. I can see the disc in the tray, my Gamercard, my games library, music library and more. This channel is all about who you are and what you have on your console.

Can you tell us more about Avatars?

Gamercards have been key to us for a long time and Avatars continue on the theme of identity, who you are on the console. Every time we've added a new functionality to gamer profiles, our community has eaten it up and asked for more. Avatars give people even more options they can use to express themselves socially on Xbox Live.

Does the new dashboard improve existing games?

We're launching the ability to copy the files from any game to your hard drive. Once there, you can play it directly from the hard drive which speeds it up around 30 percent. This is not a mandatory thing, not something game developers do, but a user option that works with every game we've ever shipped or will ever ship.

Do you have to keep hold of the game?

You have to have the disc in the tray. Publishers wouldn't be too happy otherwise.

Does this also work with DVDs?

Evil world that, I'm not ready to pick on those lawyers.

How exactly does Xbox Primetime work?

Xbox Live Primetime is something I'm very excited about. It has fresh, unique and topical content that changes every day and is about what's going on in the world. It's inherently social. If you think about 1 vs 100, every day there's a live host giving out real prizes based on questions that they wrote that morning. It happens at a certain time so you always feel like you're with the same group of people or there's a moment where everyone in the experience is an actual person. It's a common shared vision in the entertainment industry about what's great about television and what's great about gaming.

Is there going to be more connectivity with the Internet?

You'll be able to browse the entire Marketplace from Xbox.com, purchase premium content and then push that content to your hard drive. It's a little like the download queue we already have on the console, but part of the Xbox.com service. All the content is queued up ready for the next time you turn your console on.

If you want it to download automatically, does this mean you'll have to leave your console on all the time?

I leave my Xbox 360 on all day and it works great.

In an ideal world you'd be able to switch your Xbox on remotely...

I think at some point in the future you'll hear more from us about that.

Tell us about the Community Channel.

Community Channel is your visual friends list. It's also the first stepping point for Xbox Live parties. We want people to get together, stay together and always be communicating. You can have up to eight people in a party who chat and stay connected regardless of what they're doing on the console, even during a single player game.

Please explain the quick launch feature.

If you're playing an arcade game and want to play another one, you've had to quit one before starting another. The quick launch menu contains a complete list of all the content I have on my Xbox 360 and I can immediately jump to anything on there.

Can we keep our old themes and gamer pictures?

Themes and gamer pictures still work. The new Xbox 360 experience isn't about removing anything, it's about adding new functionality and making it clear exactly what the box does. Themes look quite beautiful in this world. The 3d parts in the background move up and down and change between the different slides and look quite stunning.

Are you making different deals in various territories for Primetime content?

First off, it's important that you have local content for people to be engaged. Localisation is very important to us, but at the same time you want to have global content that everyone will recognise. For 1 vs 100 we have a very strong regional plan for that content.

Is this the last update that Xbox 360 is going to get?

It's actually the opposite of that. We have a lot more that we want to do, in particular in the area of social and the entertainment experience. This update establishes the structure to support the work we want to do going forward.

Could it be that from now on, future iterations of the hardware will change but the interface will stay roughly the same?

That's a great line of questioning. Remember we're Xbox Live, if you got the hardware guys in you'd get a completely different answer. Ultimately it's about the online experience and we've seen how that came over from Xbox and continues to accelerate forward.

What level of customisation will we get with the avatars and will we have to buy extra items?

We'll leave that one for the future, but I think you're going to be very excited by the customisation options that will be open to you. We're still working with our publishers so you'll hear more about it later.

When is the update released?

It will absolutely ship this fall.

5,789 Posts
thats a definite gotya on the web access but it sounds like they will do something for the "next" update. i think they know its an issue currently and will get it fixed but i think even they are playing with the best way to do the checking in.
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