New Microsoft Kinect Live Users Chat With Avatar Kinect

Microsoft is learned to have developed a new application called Avatar Kinect that could be made available with the next XBox update. Avatar Kinect, from what we hear, is a way for XBox Live avatars to interact among themselves in a “chat room“. To put it in another way, Avatar Kinect is a video chat application where users can interact as avatars – like on Second Life –  instead of being themselves. Though this does not look like a compelling new addition, the service is expected to enhance the interactive features for XBox Live users.

Microsoft will be demoing this application on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas this week. A few pictures of the CES backstage that is doing the rounds on the blogosphere shows Avatar Kinect which makes its demonstration a certainty.

XBox Live Rewards – How It Works

Microsoft has announced a new loyalty program for their Xbox Live users. The new XBox Live Rewards loyalty program is aimed at rewarding users for their continued usage of the service and thereby win points that could be redeemed. The basic service works very much like Club Nintendo – except that instead of gears, Microsoft XBox Live users will be awarded points for every activity that they do on the service. This includes things like renewing a subscription, purchasing a family pack, buying select content from marketplace, etc. The points earned for every activity depends on whether the user is a free member or a paying member.

Points earned by members can be redeemed by purchasing content on XBox Live. For instance, a user may accumulate 1600 points to redeem a product worth $19.99 from Xbox Live marketplace. Here is a graphic that elaborates on the points that the user stands to earn on each activity. Check out the Xbox Live website to learn more and to join the Rewards program.

Xbox Live Rewards

Internet Explorer & YouTube App For XBox 360 Coming Soon?

This is a slightly extrapolated speculation. A new job posting on the Microsoft website has called upon applications for a position that will be “responsible for delivering features for Silverlight on the XBOX as part of the next wave“. Microsoft has since then removed all references to the console. But the posting itself has caused quite a bit of speculation about what the “next wave” could mean here.

It is definitely not just another buzz term used to lure potential employees. One speculation is that Silverlight could be the platform Microsoft could be banking upon to let developers build one app that can be used across platforms – on XBox 360 as well as Windows Phone 7. Another speculation is that Microsoft may be hiring developers who will build more applications for the XBox dashboard.

While we do have XBox integrated with services like Facebook, Twitter, ESPN and Netflix,there are still no apps for browsing the internet and watching YouTube. Do we have an Internet Explorer app and YouTube app coming soon?

Microsoft XBox 360 Dashboard Update – Old Vs. New

Microsoft has rolled out a new version of the XBox 360 dashboard update that, apart from some interface level changes, also introduces users to some new features. Primarily, users can now watch ESPN over XBox Live. Besides this, users also have access to over 3500 live sporting events through the year. On-demand action is available too and along with this, users also get access to a number of out-of-market games.

Other features included in the new release include compatibility for Zune Pass, a smart DJ device, better track searching tools and also an improved Netflix search service that makes it easy to streamline all the movies and TV shows that the user wants to watch. Additionally, the update brings improved sound quality on voice chat, a streamlined in-line virtual keyboard, improved Gamertag, an enhanced Live Marketplace interface and easier access to a wireless network.

This is not a geographical update and users should be prompted for an update when they login to the Live service. While there are several enhancements, is it really better than the older interface? Here are some reactions

“First and foremost with the old dashboard update you gave us a choice on what we wanted our dashboard to look like…with this update no such thing! you have made the panels too big on which i have read many people stating they will get motion sickness from and i 100% agree that it has already given me a headache for using it in the last 5 minutes.”

“I have to pay $10 extra dollars so some guy “can” watch football on his xbox? I say “can” because if he is going to watch football,  he is probably going to watch it on his big screen tv with beer and friends, and not on his xbox. Yet I have to pay extra money for it when I will NEVER use that service?”

“Not as clean as the last Interfce running at 1080p this one looks like a kid did it more pixelated.  and the EULA was in French.”

Some users though seem to be finding great improvements in performance,

“I really like this update because it’s made my system run a lot faster and smoother. So far since the update, I haven’t had a single crash in Fable 3 where I was getting them often before the update. Also my load times have been shorter while playing my WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011. Unfortunately, my friend has not had the same luck with the update that I have. We both have came to the conclusion that this update was probably only tested with the latest generation of the Xbox (I have a slim, my friend has the previous version)”

Do you like the latest XBox 360 dashboard update? What are your complaints and wishlists? Tell us in the comments.

Microsoft Kinect “Update Failed” Error For Early Adopters

Microsoft Kinect does not launch until November 4 in the United States. But a select few customers who have already received their goods ahead of the launch day are complaining that they are noticing an error while updating the software. Users connecting the new Kinect to their XBox are prompted with a message that says that an update is required. Apparently, the update file being pushed is not the latest version and misses key components thereby temporarily making access to XBox Live unavailable.

In a statement acknowledging the issue, Microsoft has noted,

“Due to a retailer error, a very small number of customers were shipped copies of a Kinect game ahead of launch. Since Kinect does not launch until Nov. 4 in the United States, customers who insert the game into their console before then will be temporarily unable to access Xbox LIVE. The retailer is contacting affected individuals directly to warn them of this situation.”

[via Joystiq]

Microsoft – Second Life Acquisition Rumors Revive

Early this month, there was a running speculation that Microsoft may have acquired Linden Lab, the company that is behind the popular virtual reality game, Second Life. Word was that Redmond may have either actually acquired the whole company or is at least in the final stages of talks before acquisition. The rumor mills also indicated a possible inclusion of the popular game on Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming network.

Now, word is out that the Founder of Linden Lab, Philip Rosedale is quitting his CEO post – just four months after he started his stint. In a blog post announcing his decision, Rosedale said,

“After about four months as interim CEO, working closely with Bob Komin, the management team, and the board, we’ve decided we are ready to start the search for a new CEO. I’ll be leaving day-to-day management of the company and continuing in my role on the board, including helping in the search to find a great CEO. I will also be continuing my work with my new company, LoveMachine.”

The announcement has revived the speculations that Linden Lab is prepping itself up for news about getting acquired by Microsoft. This is just speculation, but it would be wonderful news for the gamers should this turn out to be true.

New Xbox.com Website Launches

Microsoft will be launching a new-look Xbox.com website sometime now. The new site will bring a number of new features besides opening up support for Xbox Live to nine new countries where the service is launching next month. These countries include Russia, Poland, South Africa, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile.

New Xbox.com website

The new features as described by Major Nelson include

  • Browser based Avatar editor: Edit your avatar and preview avatar items before purchase
  • Combined views for messages, friend and game requests
  • Improved notification of your account subscription
  • Leverage Family Reports to understand what your family is doing and how they are using LIVE
  • Play web games with your Xbox LIVE friends on the web or on Windows Phone 7
  • Marketplace: More powerful search and more intuitive ways to browse and filter

The new website is set to go live starting 09:00 AM GMT. That’s almost here.

Microsoft XBox 360 Sale Numbers For September Announced

Microsoft appears to be doing really well in the gaming console segment. The company has reported that over 484,000 units of their XBox console was sold during the month of September 2010. That makes Microsoft the number 1 player in the segment for the fourth month in a row. The sale numbers are also up […]

Microsoft appears to be doing really well in the gaming console segment. The company has reported that over 484,000 units of their XBox console was sold during the month of September 2010. That makes Microsoft the number 1 player in the segment for the fourth month in a row. The sale numbers are also up 37% compared to XBox 360 sales in September last year. The company has also announced that the sale of games have seen a terrific rise thanks to the launch of the new Halo : Reach. Microsoft apparently sold 3.3 million units of the game during the month of September.

The numbers are interesting on two counts. Firstly, Microsoft will be entering the holiday shopping season on the back of this impressive sale numbers over the past four months. Gaming consoles are one of the very hot selling commodities during this season and Microsoft should expect to do well. Secondly, the impressive sale numbers should also help the company in the sale of Windows Phone 7 handsets considering that the mobile platform is tightly integrated to XBox Live. Existing users should surely contemplate buying a Windows Phone 7 device.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares rose 1.23% in the market yesterday and are currently trading at $25.57 in the after-hours.

Is Microsoft Bringing Second Life To XBox Live?

Rumors are doing the rounds that Microsoft may have acquired Linden Lab, the developers of the popular virtual world game, Second Life. According to reports, the deal has either been sealed or is in very advanced stages. Linden Lab is reported to have been entertaining offers and Microsoft is reported to have shown keen interest. […]

Rumors are doing the rounds that Microsoft may have acquired Linden Lab, the developers of the popular virtual world game, Second Life. According to reports, the deal has either been sealed or is in very advanced stages. Linden Lab is reported to have been entertaining offers and Microsoft is reported to have shown keen interest. Incidentally, Linden Lab also announced that it was closing its UK office this week.

While this still remains a rumor that needs more confirmation, there are reports nevertheless that Microsoft is keen on buying social gaming companies. It’s learned that Microsoft executives are looking for more than just partnerships and are talking about purchases with several social gaming vendors.

Nevertheless, this news should be interesting if you are a Second Life user. The acquisition could bring the game to XBox Live. Do you think that’s a good move?

Most Popular Gaming Title On XBox Live Last Week? Not ‘Halo: Reach’!

Well, after the mega opening last week that saw Bungie’s ‘Halo: Reachgarnering over $200 million in the first 24 hours of launch, one may have assumed that the new release would have easily been the most popular title on XBox Live last week. Apparently, not so. Microsoft has announced that it was Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 that was the most popular download last week. Halo: Reach was actually number 2.

While that does sound a little strange, it looks like CoD’s top spot is already under trouble. Microsoft has also conceded that the new launch from Bungie is already the top downloaded game over the past 7 days which means that Halo: Reach could turn out to be the most popular title this week.

Not that all of this matters to the gamers who have been downloading and playing games like crazy.