Hands on: Xbox 360 gets update-preview; features Zune HD streaming

In preparation for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is rolling out a beta-preview update for some Xbox users that features some new things including access to the Zune Marketplace, a re-designed UI and streaming video content (reported here earlier). The full preview contains: "ESPN on Xbox LIVE, Zune music, Netflix search, the new Xbox LIVE dashboard, and new updates to Zune video and Family Settings "

The new UI is very minimalist, having removed the next and previous "rows" from view and instead makes them just text when not highlighted. The effect is much cleaner looking now and truth be told, it's also much faster.

The Zune Marketplace allows you to buy or rent TV/movies in Standard or High Definition for various prices points ~200-300 points to rent ($3-4 roughly); ~800 points to buy (~$10).  Rentals are for 24 hours, whereas buying it allows you to stream or download (and later can sync to our devices with Windows Phone 7). The movie, TV and video selection id decent with content mostly geared to males aged 15-35).

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to stream music or podcasts directly from your Zune account and it's not clear if that is something they are planning. But overall the update is looking quite nice and we're pleased..

We'll have more coverage and an HD video up, probably in the AM tomorrow (as soon as our video camera shows up). Ask any questions in comments and we'll try to answer. For now, you can check out some more snapshots of the new UI and Zune Marketplace after the break!

Update: Received some clarification via email "...with Zune Pass, our monthly music subscription service, you stream or download as many songs as you like from the Zune Marketplace and listen to them for as long as you hold your subscription – on your PC, Windows Phone, Xbox, or in any browser via zune.net".  Sweet!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Sorry for the not-so-great quality photos--didn't feel like breaking out the D90 this early and I've been up for 24 hrs, so I need a nap!
  • Check out paul thurott's preview on winsupersite.com...he states that you can in fact stream music directly through the xbox 360with this update....
    As of now the only way to stream podcasts is to use the xbox as a windows media extender and stream them from a computer...
  • Yeah, turns out I need a 2nd update that applied only after I turned off my Xbox (no notification). That one enabled Zune Music and it is *awesome*.
  • The e-mail message in the story update mentions use of Zune Pass for streaming throught the 360. Any word on playback of local music (i.e. the Zune (but non-Zune Pass) collection on my PC)? I'd love to have the option to play through the Xbox and get the same artist visualization I get when I plug my Zune HD into the HD dock.
  • Couldn't you connect your PC up through the Xbox to do that? Not really sure, it's been awhile since I've tried to network the two together, but I know I can access all my videos that way and play 'em though Xbox. Honest, I just plug my Zune HD directly to my Xbox via USB and play my "local" music that way. Same with movies: just transfer files to my 16GB USB drive and plug it in the front--no network delay and it plays better.
  • Yes, you've been able to stream media from the PC to the XBox for a while. Specifically, I was curious if users could access their local music through the upcoming Zune client on the Xbox. That way, they can experience the same cool artist backgrounds that I do when I use my Zune HD dock.
  • I would be careful I understood there is a NDA for this beta. Isn't there a Update Beta blade with all the info? I would remove Gamertag info.
  • I'm in the preview as well and the UI is very snappy and minimalist. Love it. ESPN3 is pretty cool although I wish it had more NFL. Netflix is very much improved. Search ftw. Live Messenger apparently supports MPOP now.
  • Hello. Does this update preview come with a new version of the Live Messenger? I'm eager to find out if this will introduce multiple login locations. Thanks.
  • Yes, there is an NDA with it and it specifically states not to blog about it or post screenshots. Hopefully Maletesta received permission.
  • There as an NDA? I didn't remember seeing or signing anything... Shoot, now I feel bad if so. lol Probably my last update.
  • They probably didn't integrate a Zune account sync because you can already stream all the music on your PC to your Xbox 360 through the Zune software.