Xbox Live update: How to get in on the beta launch

Xbox Live is readying a dashboard update intended in part to help make Xbox Live more compatible with the Kinect.

Xbox Live is getting a dashboard update. Here's how to get in on the fun.

Xbox Live, the digital gaming network developed by Microsoft, is readying a new dashboard, designed in part to make the platform easier to use with the Kinect. Today, Microsoft announced it would open a "preview program" – essentially a beta launch – for a few thousand lucky participants. So how do you get in on the action?

First, you'll need to navigate your browser over to the Microsoft Connect site, and enter the Windows LIVE ID connected to your Xbox Gametag. A survey will pop up. Complete the survey, click send, and according to Larry Hryb, the director of programming at Xbox Live, the site will "notify you immediately if you’ve been accepted." (The precise rubric for acceptance is unclear.)

"The Preview Program will give you the chance to check out ESPN on Xbox LIVE, Zune music, Netflix search, the new Xbox LIVE dashboard, and new updates to Zune video and Family Settings on your Xbox 360," Hryb wrote. In a list of bullet points about the beta test, Hryb cautioned users that "this is not for Kinect. You will not be receiving a Kinect sensor if you are chosen to participate."

In September, Microsoft announced it would increase rates on its Xbox Live Gold packages – a move that was greeted with shouts and groans from the Xbox Live gaming public. The rate hike, set to go into effect in November, jacks up yearly fees from $50 to $60 for a year, and monthly fees from $8 to $10; users in the UK, the US, and Canada are affected.

"Sometimes Microsoft gets it right, but sometimes it gets it head-smacking wrong," Matt Peckham of PC World wrote at the time. "Charging $100 for a wireless adapter would be the latter, while charging $300 for an souped-up Xbox 360 with integrated wireless may by contrast induce jaw-on-the-floor-itis. Charging $50 a year to access premium content is fine. Charging $50 a year to play online against other gamers isn't."

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