Hands-on: Social networking on Xbox 360
Microsoft was expected to release Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm apps for the Xbox 360 as part of a system software update that went out back in August. It was decided that the apps should be delayed for a fall release, but CNET got a sneak peek of the apps on Wednesday from Ron Pessner, Microsoft’s general manager of games for Windows Live.
The company is still mum on an exact release, despite marketing materials on the U.K. Xbox.com site briefly pointing to a November 17 debut. Pessner confirmed that the new apps were indeed set for November release, but he could not provide a hard date. In the meantime the company is releasing a public preview ahead of time for a select group of users who sign up to be a part of the beta test (you can sign up here).
What we saw of the three apps was impressive but in many ways extremely limited compared with their desktop counterparts. Microsoft has had to shoehorn the three Web apps into a system with a control scheme that does not implement a mouse, keyboard, or Web browser. Instead, all three make use of the Xbox 360 controller and the on-screen keyboard, or an attached USB keyboard (or Microsoft Chat Pad accessory which you can buy for $30).
This lack of the usual top-to-bottom controls found on each service’s Web sites changes each experience considerably from what users are familiar with on their computers and mobile devices. This is made even more noticeable by the fact that the Xbox 360 still does not have a built-in Web browser. Never before has this been an issue, but stop and think for a second: are Twitter and Facebook as useful, or as interesting if you can’t click on any of the links? We don’t think so.
That said, there are some definite things to look forward to when the software update drops next month. Read our early impressions after the jump.
The Twitter app is the most beautiful of the three new apps. It’s big, blue, and can be left running on your TV for hours while it updates with new tweets on the minute.
Twitter is big, blue and pretty on the Xbox 360.
(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)
The app lets you cruise through the last 50 tweets from people you’re following. It can also drill down into each of those messages and let you quickly reply, retweet, and favorite it in about two button presses. It also includes Twitter’s search tool, and a list of trending topics right from the main page.
And as a nice touch, the app is in no way tied to your Xbox Live account, meaning you can switch between multiple Twitter accounts from the same Xbox Live user profile. It can also just save your credentials between sessions, but there’s no way to have it remember past log-ins.