Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Xbox 360 has never been solely about games — it’s been a way for Microsoft to move beyond the PC and into the living room to become a digital entertainment hub. During its E3 press conference today, Microsoft got a whole lot closer to that goal with the addition of a host of new features for Xbox Live including Twitter and Facebook integration, social viewing and instantly watchable 1080p HD movies. We watched the conference’s live-stream and grabbed these choice nuggets:
Xbox Live users will soon be able to connect to their Twitter accounts to post updates and check in on their Tweet stream through their televisions. The Facebook integration goes a bit further: You can find Facebook friends who are also Xbox Live members, share photos and status updates, and post screenshots of games to your Facebook accounts.
The social activity won’t end there — the Xbox Live Party lets you watch content with your friends online. From the brief demo, it looks like you and your friends’ avatars will meet up in a virtual theater to watch videos on a simulated screen.
And watching videos will get a whole lot better through the service. Microsoft is beefing up its Netflix (s NFLX) integration, allowing users to browse the Watch Instantly queue directly from the TV, as well as play movies instantly without adding them to the queue at all. As we reported the other day, BSkyB is also integrating its programming to allow U.K. and Ireland members to watch live television from the network through the Xbox. And we knew the Zune Marketplace was coming to Xbox, but today Microsoft announced that HD video will be offered at full 1080p through it and users can watch instantly, with no downloads and no delays.
Don’t want to watch a video? Then you can listen to music, as Xbox Live will add millions of songs from Last.fm direct to your TV.
All of these features are due to hit Xbox Live this fall.
Xbox also showed off its “Project Natal,” which is a future hardware add-on that abandons the controller entirely and instead uses body gestures to control games and navigate through menus. There was no release date for that tech, though.
Today’s moves touch on many of the trends we follow here at NTV: social TV, on-demand video, and gesture controls, and with Xbox Live’s 20 million users, it pushes all of them more into the mainstream.