Xbox 360 Spring Update: First Impressions

May 9, 2007

I posted about the Xbox 360 spring update when it was first announced by Microsoft. The update is here so I had an opportunity to test it out.

THE GREAT: you can now stream WMV video (DRM or otherwise) from a plain-Jane PC, that is, Windows Media Center is no longer required to stream video. You do need to install Windows Media Player 11 which now includes Windows Media Connect. Windows Media Connect is a UPnP A/V streaming server. Previously, it was a separate install but it is now bundled with Windows Media Player 11.

THE GOOD: video playback is now bookmarked. Once a video is partially played, the next time you select that video you are presented with a “Resume” and a “Play” button. Bookmarks persist across system shutdowns. It works as expected but it is video only, no audio (good for long podcasts or audio books).

THE BAD: I can play MP4 and h.264 videos but only from a “Portable Device” (a USB thumbdrive in my case). The Spring Update was not enough, I was prompted to download an additional support file when I attempted to play a h.264 file from the thumbdrive and was then able to play MP4 videos as well (with bookmarking). MP4 and h.264 files are NOT displayed when browsing a Windows Media Connect source. They show up when browsing videos in Windows Media Center but I get an “Unsupported…” error message when I attempt to play it.

THE UGLY:  I tried out the new Windows Live Messenger support. Now I can’t stop it!!! Every time I start the Xbox 360 it logs me into Live Messenger (which logs me out elsewhere). There is no way to disable it that I can see. Goofy. Irritating.