At the giant video game trade show E3 in June, Microsoft announced that it was planning to bring Facebook, Twitter, and Last.fm (which is owned by CNET News parent CBS Interactive) to its hit online service, Xbox Live.
At the time, the announcements were just conceptual, and even today, Microsoft is only willing to say that its plan is to release the new features for Xbox Live sometime in November.
But on Wednesday, CNET News reporters Daniel Terdiman and Josh Lowensohn got a first-hand look at the new features, as well as the new Zune instant-on service that is replacing the Xbox Live video marketplace. This is an image of the Xbox Live screen that users will access to use Facebook, Twitter, and Last.fm.
Microsoft thinks that one of the major uses for Facebook in Xbox Live will be to run slideshow of users' photos on a TV. The implementation of Facebook has a heavy emphasis on seeing users' and users' friends' photos, though it is not possible to upload images to Facebook from Xbox Live.
As part of the Facebook implementation into Xbox Live, Microsoft has created what it is calling the "friend linker," which will show Xbox Live users which of their friends are also on Facebook and show Facebook users which of their friends are also on Xbox Live.
This way, Microsoft says, it will be easier for users of the two services to discover each other, and specifically, for Facebook users to determine what the Xbox Live gamertag is of those friends that use the gaming service.
In this image of a Facebook friends list--as seen in Xbox Live--a user could see which Facebook friends are also on Xbox Live, since they are denoted by a small Xbox symbol besides their name.
Microsoft has also added Twitter functionality to Xbox Live. This image shows the main Xbox Live Twitter page. Users can post a tweet, search for tweets by keyword, look at other users' profiles, and re-tweet posts they like.
Last year, Microsoft added Netflix streaming functionality to Xbox Live to give users access to a wide library of movies. Now, it plans to add Last.fm to Xbox Live to let users focus on music discovery. Among other things that Xbox Live and Last.fm worked on together was providing gamers with a collection of video game-oriented music channels.
The last of the new Xbox Live features that Microsoft plans to push live some time in November is its new Zune HD Instant On service. This will allow Xbox Live users to instantly stream movies, TV shows, or other video content they choose to watch. Microsoft is officially folding its Xbox Live video marketplace into its Zune video marketplace, meaning that all movie and TV sales and rentals done on the Xbox Live service will have Zune branding.