Earlier today Microsoft rolled out what it's calling a "Home Experiment," testing out a new dashboard for the Xbox One. Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Skip Ahead rings are gaining access to the new dashboard as part of Build 18362 in waves, and we were among the lucky few able to give it a look.
The new dashboard is a lot less cluttered than the previous iteration, surfacing more of your recent games and reducing the amount of "dynamic" content like ads and suggested activities below the fold. There's still a large "resume" button for the currently active app or game, and the rest remains largely the same. You can still attach pins, the guide menu works as usual, and you can still modify the background picture and so on. The most noteworthy change can be found in the tabular interface, which is now gone entirely.
Instead of the tabs across the top, with a horizontal navigation for Mixer, the Store, Game Pass, and the Community feed, Microsoft has placed four buttons below the large "Resume" tile. This gives you quicker access to the specific tab you want to access, without having to navigate through multiple pages. Anecdotally, it all seems a lot faster as a result, with smoother transition animations and faster load times.
Another major change in this build is the way Cortana is handled. She's no longer present on the box itself, instead, you must use an app on your phone or speaker device like an Amazon Echo Dot or Harman/Kardon Invoke, or even your PC. The reality is very few users were accessing Cortana this way, meaning that she was taking up unnecessary resources which could've been allocated elsewhere. Xbox's non-Cortana voice commands will remain, however. But if you want to use Cortana's more powerful features you'll need to grab the Xbox skill, which is currently only available to a few markets. Alternatively, you can use the Amazon Echo Xbox Skill which is available far more broadly, due to Amazon's more global focus on voice control.
Personally, I think this is a very positive change for the dashboard. It looks a lot more organized, and the more rapid access to other tabs is a welcome change. What do you think? Hit the comments, let us know.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!