New Xbox 360 Metro-style dashboard is (finally) live

Microsoft launched its brand new Xbox 360 dashboard late Tuesday night after a last-minute delay, adding Kinect voice search, cable TV support and enhanced social networking options to an already impressive suite of online features. The goal, said the company, is jump-starting “the future of TV” with a video game console. Neither Nintendo’s Wii nor Sony’s PlayStation 3 has come this close.

The new Metro-style dashboard’s biggest attention-grabber (beside its look) is an expanded roster of TV content – something Microsoft hasn’t been shy about gushing over. In a letter to gamers, Corporate Vice President of Xbox Live Marc Whitten touted the new multimedia additions as a vital step toward a complete entertainment package.

“Building upon our great lineup of partners, we’ve teamed up with nearly 40 of the world’s leading TV and entertainment providers to bring you an array of live and on-demand TV, movies, games, sports and music experiences,” boasted Whitten. “The first wave of new partners rolls out today with experiences like EPIX and TODAY (MSNBC) in the US, LOVEFiLM in the UK, Sky Go in Germany, Premium Play by (MediaSet) in Italy and Telefonica España – Movistar Imagenio in Spain.”

The executive promised additional television content will hit Xbox Live next year.

A Bing-powered voice search available to Kinect owners also made its debut. Gamers can now tell their consoles to locate specific games, videos and music, explained Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. So instead of just looking like this while using Kinect, you can also sound like this.

Those without the flexible motion control peripheral are stuck browsing for content with Bing the old-fashioned way: with a controller. At least the classics never go out of style.

With the Redmond company’s HD system entering its twilight years and the promise of shiny new game machines on the horizon, a true TV-in-a-game-console revolution may be slightly delayed. But this is a nice start.

What do you think of the Xbox 360 dashboard’s new look and features? Let us know in the comment section.