Unlike Sony, Microsoft likes to make updates to its games consoles in big chunks. So while the Japanese company will trickle its PS3 updates out regularly, Microsoft issues two big Xbox 360 updates a year. The so-called 'fall update' is already late, and looks like hitting consoles at some point in early December.

But what's going to be included in it? One of the new features that Microsoft has already confirmed is the so-called 'Family Timer'. This is a tool that enables parents to track how much time their kids have spent playing games.

Xbox 360 'Family Timer'

It'll also empower those parents to limit the amount of time the consoles can be used per day. Once those limits are hit, the password-protected console will shut down. It's the feature all mothers across the world have been waiting for, and every child's worst nightmare.

According to Bach, with more than 13 million Xbox 360 consoles sold worldwide, the company's drive to empower parents is a core Microsoft responsibility.

"We've seen a tremendous response to the robust parental controls offered on Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and the Xbox 360 Family Timer will continue to deliver on our promise to provide safer, balanced and fun entertainment for everyone," he said.

Video Marketplace

Well, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace launched a year ago in the US and it's widely expected that next month's update will see it debut in the UK. It's a service which allows you to download TV episodes and movies either on a rental or permanent basis.

So you can expect to be able to pay a nominal fee for episodes of shows like CSI and Star Trek, as well as movies such as Saw.

There are also whispers doing the rounds that the fall update will see DivX compatibility added to the Xbox 360. That's something that would go down a storm with most 360 gamers.

DivX is the worlds' most popular video format, but most devices need special codecs to read the files. If the Xbox 360 gets DivX compatibility, it would enable gamers to stream their DivX media from their PCs to their consoles and then onto their living room TVs.

DivX support?

It's just speculation though at the moment, sparked by DivX CEO Kevin Hell letting slip that he was working with Microsoft for future collaborations. So it's possible that DivX support could also be added to Microsoft 1st- and 2nd-gen Zune players. But it's also possible that nothing will come of it.

Microsoft is being typically secretive with details regarding the Xbox 360 fall update. It only confirmed the Family Timer because it had already been leaked onto the internet. But the twice-yearly dashboard updates typically add a range of new functionality, from small usability tweaks to major functionality enhancements.

Our colleagues on OXM have also reported that Microsoft plans to offer original Xbox games for download via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The initial list of downloads reportedly includes: Halo, Fable, Fahrenheit, Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex and Burnout 3. Launch date? December 4.

We could expect more announcements during the long weekend of Xtival 07 (23-26 November), which marks the two-year anniversary of Xbox Live and offers free online play for all Xbox 360 owners.