Microsoft has announced a major update to the XBox 360 which brings Windows Live Messenger functionality to its games console, connecting the device to the millions of users for whom 'Messenger' is already their IM client of choice. Right now 360 users can input text using a virtual on-screen keyboard or choose to plug in a USB one. However, later this year, Microsoft will release a new input device that combines a traditional XBox controller with a QWERTY thumb-board.
Along with the recently added IPTV capabilities, this further positions the XBox 360 as Redmond's trojan horse designed to deliver Internet services into our living rooms.
The social networking revolution will be televised
Xbox LIVE has really become the largest social network on television -- Microsoft's Jerry JohnsonAll three of the 'next generation' consoles have added various degrees of social networking functionality, that goes beyond online multi-player gaming. Sony has perhaps the most ambitious plans, with the Playstation 3's 'Home' -- a 3D, avatar-based social network which takes its cues from virtual worlds like Second Life, but with Sony controlling most of the content. Nintendo has also indicated that it's considering expanding its avatar-based Mii concept into a fully-fledged social network. However, with XBox's introduction of Windows Live Messenger, it has a distinct advantage in that it's able to tap into an existing user-base which goes beyond gamers -- a strategy that may hint at further ways in which the 360 could support Microsoft's other existing social web services.