Xbox 360 gets Windows Live IM

Xbox 360 users will soon be able to instant message using Windows Live Messenger over their game consoles

Xbox 360 Live customers will soon be able to instant message using Windows Live Messenger over the game console, according to Microsoft.

Starting the week of May 7, Xbox 360 owners will be able to chat with other Xbox 360, PC or Windows Mobile users via instant message. They'll be able to chat with up to six people at one time while playing games, listening to music or watching movies on the console, Microsoft said.

Users can input text with the onscreen Xbox 360 keyboard or using a connected external keyboard. In a few months, Microsoft plans to launch a new keyboard that will connect directly to the Xbox 360 controller, the company said.

Xbox 360 users will be able to instant message with Windows Mobile users who have MSN Messenger-branded clients on their phones, said Evan Parker, a spokesman with Microsoft's external public relations company Edelman. MSN Messenger is an older version of the Windows Live instant messaging service. Currently, Windows Live Messenger is only available as a beta for Windows Mobile 5.0 users, although Windows Live will be included in Windows Mobile 6.0, the newest version of the operating system.

Despite other Microsoft home media products such as the Media Center and the forthcoming Windows Home Server, new features being added to the Xbox 360 continue to help position the gaming console as a central device in the living room. Xbox Live customers can already download movies and other video content, play music, video and voice chat and now instant message.

In addition to the new Windows Live Messenger feature, the forthcoming update for Xbox 360 will include enhanced family settings capabilities that will allow users to set different defaults for video chat and voice chat. A new feature in Xbox Live Arcade will allow users to easily see which arcade games their friends are playing and decide to join in games. Users will also be able to set their consoles to shut off automatically when a download is complete.

The updates will be available for free download for all Xbox 360 owners.

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