If you haven't heard by now, Xbox LIVE's new dashboard update was released last week. On the grand scale, the update was an overall pleasant one, however the lack of the new media partners at rollout of the update left a bitter taste in the mouths of the masses. To be fair, Major Nelson did report that we'd see the video and live TV content during the holiday season and not specifically with the dashboard update, but it would've made more sense for Microsoft to release it all at the same time.
At any rate, just a handful of days after the dashboard was refreshed, we now have more media partners signing on to LIVE. While we're still waiting on a couple, there's some nice additions waiting for your downloading pleasure. We dive into the details after the break.
Upon signing onto Xbox LIVE, you will be greeted with your home screen having two slides in the live tiles, one for Verizon FiOS and one for the new media partners. We'll go through each one in the order they appear on my console, skipping over the ones that have already been on the platform or were included in the dashboard rollout, like The Today Show.
Starting with Verizon FiOS, when you select the slide you are shown the customary Xbox LIVE ad space with info about FiOS on LIVE. Verizon FiOS customers will be able to get live, multi-channel streaming HDTV content, complete with Kinectability. When you download the free app, if you have the service, you will be prompted to sign in, otherwise, you will be told you don't have it. The cool thing is that if you have the ISP in your area and wish to sign up, Xbox LIVE gives you a special code to get FiOS Triple Play for $89.99 per month for 24 months and it includes their 35/35mbps Internet package. You can also get Halo: Anniversary and a LIVE Gold Membership for 12 months. This offer is good through January 21st of next year, so if you want to sign up, now's the time to do so.
Moving from the TV partner is a handful of new video services that have finally shown up on Xbox LIVE. We'll start with YouTube. Like every other new app, upon the download and start of YouTube you will see the expected live tiles along with a custom color scheme. YouTube's app comes with four tabs at the top: my YouTube, features, discover and settings. Selecting my YouTube allows you to link your YouTube account to Xbox LIVE and gives you access to Watch Later, playlists, favorites, subscriptions and more. Jumping over to the featured tab lets you see a four image slideshow highlighting promoted video content and also has the YouTube trends, most popular and most liked videos as tiles. Selecting the "see all" tile will give you more options, like viewing sports content and the most viewed videos. Throughout any of the sub-menus, the "X" button will take you back to YouTube home and the "Y" button has the same search you'll find anywhere else on LIVE with Kinectability, but with no voice search support. Flipping over to the discover tab lets you see 7 different genres of content, along with "view all", which lets you scroll through 17 different categories. Lastly, the settings tab lets you access your Kinect tuner and customer support. You are also able to sign in and out of your YouTube account and adjust your safety mode between off, moderate and strict.
The msnbc app opens with the MSN butterfly and takes you to an app with a background that makes you feel like you are in the clouds. The four tabs here are search, msn, news and settings. Search does exactly what you think except not only can you search for whatever you want, they also gives you seven search suggestions, which can also be accessed by voice commands, that I assume are based off of popular searches, breaking news, personalized suggestions or a combination of those. Pressing the right bumper to the msn tab brings up most popular, editors' picks, msn originals and categories. To the right of those are three dynamic tiles with promoted content from MSN. The msn originals are pretty cool and I suggest checking out road raves and the FOX Sports Flash, as when browsing through this app I ended up getting distracted with those shows for a few minutes. The news tab mimics exactly what the msn tab has, except in place of msn originals is the shows tile, which are the shows you'd find on mnbc's cable channel.
Quickly going over the TMZ app, you are able to search, edit settings and view TMZ Home, Raw & Uncut, TMZ on TV and TMZ Live content. The interesting thing here is their Social integration. Without having to go to your dashboard or Xbox menu, you can see what your friends are doing in tile format and selecting a friend's gamertag brings up their profile.
The SyFy apps looks really clean and comes with a nice looking logo placed below the tiles. The featured, show content, syfy digital studio and game trailers tabs all do what they say, but it is interesting to note there is no search feature with this one.
The last of the video partners is Epix and, while not being able to test out the streaming quality as I no longer have my trial account, I can say that the featured, movies, originals and me tabs all contain detailed information about the movies you can select and the movies are current and relevant.
Moving on to the one new music partner is iHeartRadio. Yes, it has finally arrived to the platform even though they were streaming the iHeartRadio Concert on Xbox LIVE a couple of months ago. Aside from the typical search and profile options, upon loading the app iHeartRadio finds local stations near you and displays them as a slideshow on the main tile in the stations tab. You can also create custom stations, find more stations near you, browse live radio or access your saved stations. In the featured tab, you will see content geared either towards the time of year or a specific artist, with the ability to search more popular stations by genre. The social tab allows you to log in to your iHeartRadio account, enjoy your own custom stations from your favorite songs and artists and then share those songs and artists with your friends on Xbox LIVE. If you're still into the whole local radio thing, this is the app for you.
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the partners and the thought-out efforts of the apps that were made available. Xbox LIVE has a "coming soon" section that lists Crackel, Daily Motion, UFC, Vevo, Vudu HD Movies, MLB.tv, Xfinity and HBO Go, so we are still waiting on a number of partners to finalize their apps before they go LIVE. Based on the complete list we saw back in October, that still leaves AT&T, Best Buy's CinemaNow, Comcast and Manga Entertainment as the ones not even on the coming soon list and I know for some of the hosts on the show, Manga is the one thing they were looking forward to.
Hopefully all of this puts Microsoft back on the right foot forward and we won't see any more mistimed rollouts like we'd expect to see from companies like Sony. Unfortunately, there's still a lot left be desired. Is this enough for media for you now or did you want the whole shabang? Let us know in the comments.