Microsoft is updating its Xbox One entertainment and gaming console with a new friends area, DLNA media streaming and an army of small fixes.
Microsoft said that it began deploying what most are calling the October Xbox One Update last night. Members of the Xbox One Preview Program have had this update for some time, but it’s only now starting to reach normal Xbox One users who didn’t sign up to download and test games earlier.
Whereas past updates have focused on plugging holes and adding small features, the October Xbox One Update specifically addresses issues around content discovery. More specifically, Microsoft is trying to make features like app multitasking, leaderboards and messages easier to find and use than they were at launch.
A new Friends area sits on the home screen and provides users with all the information they need about what they’re Xbox Live friends are up to. A leaderboard area tracks which of them has earned the most Xbox Live achievement points over the previous 30 days. Another area shows what games are popular with friends so that users can make better buying decisions if they’re hoping to join the crowd. Finally, a Live Tile provides up-to-the-minute information about what apps or games user’s friends are in. All told, the new Xbox One Friends panel is pretty useful and was sorely needed since Microsoft had effectively boxed all the friend and social functionality in a single app that had to be opened.
Microsoft has received no end of criticism for how sectioned off the Xbox One software experience feels. Whereas the software running on the Xbox 360 felt connected, the Xbox One sections off functionality in different apps. This leads to a lot of different interfaces and a lot of time spent launching different apps.
With the October Xbox One Update Microsoft is tying everything closer together. Friends and Messages have gotten new updates that allow them to be run on the side of users screen. To access them or any of the Xbox One apps with multitasking capabilities users simply press the Xbox logo on their controller down twice. When in a game users will get a battery indicator, a clock and access to Game DVR recordings from the Snap Center too.
There are changes outside of the core gaming experience too. A new friends section on the Xbox One SmartGlass app for iPhone, iPad, Windows, Windows Phone and devices running Google’s Android operating system surface the same game popularity statistics.
The Xbox One is also meant to extend users television experience and this update proves Microsoft is actively working to update those experiences with the features users crave. A new MiniGuide now means that users can still watch their shows while browsing through what’s on other channels. Accessing the MiniGuide requires just a button press on a controller and some scrolling or the “Xbox, Select Mini Guide” voice command. Internet TV apps can now interface directly with the Xbox OneGuide to provide information just like broadcast and television apps do. Today, the only app that supports this is Zatto and it’s not available in the United States.
The Xbox One’s live television features have been there since last year, but the Xbox One wasn’t great at supporting media users already owned. It was a big feature gap, one Microsoft promised it would fix as soon as it could. As of today, Microsoft has kept that promise. The October Xbox One Update adds wireless DLNA media streaming and MKV support. That streaming is in addition to the media playback features Microsoft added with an earlier update. Whether users have a television show on their PC or a home movie on a flash drive, the Xbox One will allow them to play it.
All users with an Xbox One console should find themselves prompted to download an update over the next few days if they have the console’s low-power mode enabled. (Low power mode is enabled by default.) Those who don’t will be prompted to update the October Xbox One Update the next time they connect to Xbox Live.