07/03/2012 12:26 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, Tech & Gadgets

The new Xbox 360 dashboard - what you need to know

Say hello to the new Xbox 360 dashboard. From 6 December enjoy on-demand video from 40 entertainment providers, voice search, downloadable apps and more.

**Update** We've added a video, watch it below. The Xbox 360 dashboard update launched in the UK on 6 December. Since then a bucketload of new channels have been added, with VEVO, Netflix, 4 on Demand (C4), Demand 5 (Five), LOVEFILM, Sky Player, Dailymotion, Muzu.tv, Crackle, YouTube and MSN now available.

Xbox 360 is transforming how you enjoy TV entertainment via the power of Kinect. Control all of your games, music, movies and sports as well as live and on-demand TV - using only your voice.

The Xbox 360 dashboard update is available from 6 December 2011. Image MSN

As of 21 December 2011, 4 on Demand (C4), Demand 5 (Five) & more have been added.

New Metro dashboard

If you switch on your Xbox 360 from 6 December onwards, expect to receive a prompt to download the next version of the Xbox dashboard.

Microsoft will begin to roll out the next major update to the Xbox 360 dashboard - the update will marry content from up to 40 entertainment providers with Bing-enabled voice search and new social functions.

The new dashboard incorporates Microsoft's Metro style interface (as seen on Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 8), it will also bring Windows Phone integration with the release of the Xbox Companion app.

It's not just the visuals that have had a lick of paint - the navigation has undergone changes too. There are old favourites like games, music, video and settings, mixed with bing, home, social, tv and apps. Apps is particularly interesting as this is where you'll find a collection of downloadable new applications that will add even more functionality to your Xbox.

Voice activated

With the new Xbox 360 experience, entertainment is now more intuitive with the launch of Bing on Xbox.

The power of Kinect combined with the search intelligence of Bing is turning your voice into the ultimate remote control. Use your voice to effortlessly find the games, movies, TV shows and music you want by simply saying what you're searching for.

Use your voice to control your Xbox 360. Image MSN

In our tests this new feature worked brilliantly - it makes you feel like a power-crazed galactic overlord commanding some sort of space-age computer onboard your mothership. Just say "Xbox" followed by your command, e.g. "Xbox, Bing X-Men" to search for X-Men films across the platform. To launch apps and games is even easier; just say "Xbox" followed by your destination, e.g. "Xbox, Home" will take you to the new iteration of "My Xbox".

But don't worry, you can still use your Xbox 360 controller as normal or the Xbox 360 media remote control if you prefer.

Brave new world

With the Xbox 360 dashboard update, Microsoft wants to let people know that the Xbox is no longer just a games console.

An estimated 57 million Xbox consoles will receive the update

With the update, your Xbox has become the best device to experience all your entertainment.

If you've got an Xbox LIVE gold account, over the coming weeks, TV and movie fans can instantly stream live television via Sky, as well as enjoy a variety of fantastic content from the likes of Channel 4, Channel 5, LOVEFiLM, YouTube, Zune and MSN Video. Keep your eyes peeled as we can expect to see BBC content arriving in early 2012.

Read more: Full details and dates

Windows Phone Xbox Companion app

If you own a Windows Phone you can also download the Xbox companion app which will turn your handset into a remote control.

The app will be made available for free to Windows Phone users and will let owners find and control content from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace on the Xbox 360.

The Xbox companion includes basic playback controls for music and video playback, it will also provide you with more information about the song or video you're currently playing (think - song name, artist and albums etc.)

Search for the Xbox Companion app on the Windows Phone Marketplace or via Zune on your PC.

More on MSN: Xbox Companion app

Beacons let your friends see what you're playing and any open invites. Image MSN

The Social Network

As well as Facebook and Twitter apps, the new Xbox dashboard also introduces something called Beacons.

With Beacons, no matter what you're currently doing on Xbox LIVE, your friends know that it's OK to ask you to play games with which you set a Beacon.

Microsoft has also introduced a cloud-saving feature that makes it a doddle for gamers to switch profiles and access their save games without the need for a USB key.

An Xbox LIVE Gold membership is required to access the on-demand content and for save games on the Xbox cloud storage.

Microsoft adds new TV channels to Xbox LIVE

More on MSN: How Kinect works
Microsoft launches Xbox 360 TV service

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