Microsoft has finally released the Xbox Live spring patch for its Xbox 360 console . The update provides Xbox 360 owners worldwide with access to Windows Live Messenger features. And it broadens the communication options on the Xbox Live social network.

Microsoft says that members of the six million-strong Xbox Live community currently send more than two million text and voice messages a day. They can now use Windows Live Messenger to text chat with up to six people on their contact list at the same time, while playing games, listening to music or watching movies.

"Bringing the largest IM community in the world, Windows Live Messenger, to Xbox 360 makes sense, as Xbox Live has really become the largest social network on television," said Jerry Johnson, product unit manager of Xbox Live at Microsoft.

"For our growing community of six million on Xbox Live, using Xbox 360 is a very social, connected experience. They are using Xbox 360 to play games, music and movies while simultaneously communicating with one another through video, voice and text chat.

"With this announcement we are simultaneously expanding the access of Xbox Live users to existing friends and family while introducing Windows Live Messenger users to the benefits of Xbox 360."

New features for Xbox 360

This summer Microsoft plans to launch a Qwerty text-input device - a new accessory that will connect directly into the Xbox 360 controller to support text and instant messaging.

Beyond Windows Live Messenger, the Spring Update for Xbox 360 includes hundreds of new features and enhancements such as the following:

  • A better Achievement notification pop-up will showcase the name of the unlocked Achievement and the gamerscore value without needing to leave the game to check the Achievements list
  • Enhanced family settings features for Xbox Live communications enable different defaults for video chat and voice chat
  • A new Xbox Live Marketplace blade lets Xbox Live members access the content they seek - whether it is game content or TV shows and movies (available in the United States) - from one place on Xbox Live
  • Updates to Xbox Live Arcade allow owners to quickly see which Xbox Live Arcade games their friends are playing and join in the fun. Xbox Live members can also compare progress of leaderboard scores and Achievements directly with all friends on their friends list. Expanded Tell a Friend capabilities make it easier to boast about Achievements and high scores
  • A new option in Auto Downloads provides faster access to the entire collection of free, trial-version Xbox Live Arcade games
  • New progressive download controls provide easy access to optimal viewing options by letting people fast-forward, rewind, pause and resume as their video is downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace
  • Extension of the background download functionality allows owners to set their Xbox 360 console to turn off automatically after downloads are complete