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Microsoft has released a slew of new features onto its Xbox Live online gaming and entertainment platform, and is asking for volunteers from the public to beta test the new offerings.
The new features include a version of Internet Explorer that will run on the Xbox, new tools for creating and sharing recommendations and ratings and pinning favorites. Also coming to the Xbox platform are enhanced search tools, including voice search through Bing, and features that will make it easier for users to search by category.
Microsoft first announced its plans to beef up Xbox Live with the new services last month, when it put out the call for public beta testers. Now, it’s seeking more help.
“The amount of interest we received in July for the 2012 Xbox Live Update Public Beta was so staggering that today we’re announcing a second open call for Xbox Live subscribers to test out the beta program,” said Xbox Live programming director Larry Hryb, who goes by the name “Major Nelson” when he’s on the network.
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“I can tell you that we’re accepting far more beta testers this time around, but space is still limited and once the spots are filled the beta will be closed,” Hryb wrote in a blog post to announce the program.
To sign up for the public beta, users will need an Xbox Live account. They’ll know they’ve been selected to participate if the new features show up in their accounts within the next several days, according to Hryb.
Microsoft is keeping a lid on what the beta testers can disclose. “You will be required to agree to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for confidentiality reasons. Any participant who violates the NDA will be removed from this beta and all Xbox betas moving forward, and will not have access to Xbox Live until the end of this beta program period.”
Hryb’s got some advice for those who think they can get around the agreement. “Our NDA enforcement squad is really good at finding violators; so save us both the trouble and don’t test them.” Upon completing the beta, users will be asked to complete a five-minute survey about their experiences with the new features.
The Xbox, once strictly a gaming platform, is becoming increasingly important to Microsoft’s plan to move beyond the PC.
The company is porting many Windows and cloud-based software, such as Internet Explorer and Bing search, to the platform as it competes with Apple and Google to own consumers’ living rooms and be a gatekeeper for movies, entertainment, and other digital content.
At this year’s InformationWeek 500 Conference, C-level execs will gather to discuss how they’re rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.