The feature will be added for free through an Xbox 360 Dashboard update – due for release on May 7 – and means that, for the first time, Xbox owners will be able to hold instant messaging conversations with those on a PC. The move will greatly broaden the communication prospects of the 6 million Xbox Live users worldwide, as they will be able to chat directly with the 260 million users on Windows Live Messenger.
It is a natural extension of Microsoft’s announcement last month that, from June, the Xbox Live network would be opened up so that PC users on Windows Vista could compete directly against those on an Xbox 360.
“Bringing the largest IM community in the world, Windows Live Messenger, to Xbox 360 makes sense, as Xbox Live has really become the largest social network on television,” said the Xbox Live product unit manager, Jerry Johnson, in a statement.
Microsoft said the update would allow Xbox users to text chat with up to six people on their contact list simultaneously, regardless of whether they were in the middle of playing games, music or movies. Users would also be able to see if any of their Windows Live Messenger contacts were registered with Xbox Live and, if so, invite them to a game.
Text input on the Xbox is by default accomplished using an onscreen virtual keyboard, but users can also connect their own QWERTY computer keyboard through one of the console’s USB ports.
So, what’s the catch? Microsoft said it would “launch a QWERTY text-input device, a new accessory that will connect directly into the Xbox 360 controller to support text and instant messaging”. Microsoft said the accessory would be released in the US this summer.
This all seem like a planned road map for Microsoft in mapping their way to build aLive anywhere experience for every customers who are using Microsoft products (who doesn’t these days?)