Microsoft has announced that the next update for the Xbox 360 console will see it become compatible with the popular Windows Live Messenger IM software. The Spring Update, which will be issued on 7 May, will provide Xbox 360 owners worldwide with access to Windows Live Messenger features, broadening the communication options on the Xbox Live social network.

The Windows Live Messenger network has more than 260 million active accounts, making it the most widely-used instant messaging client in the world, ahead of AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. It was formerly known under various names, including MSN Messenger and .NET Messaging Service.

Current relationships on Windows Live Messenger and Xbox Live will be brought togeher on the Xbox 360 and users can see if their existing friends on Windows Live Messenger have gamertags.

"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 manager of Xbox Live at Microsoft.

New features

"For our growing community of 6 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," he continued.

Beginning the week of 7 May, users of Windows Live Messenger on Xbox 360 can text chat using the virtual keyboard accessible on Xbox 360, or by connecting a USB keyboard to the console.

This summer Microsoft will 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 including the ability to auto-shutdown after downloads have completed and better friend capabilities within Xbox Live Arcade.