The Xbox 360 is to receive its first major update in the coming weeks, with new features including background downloading, direct booting to the dashboard and improved media functions all set to be included.
Details of the update have been revealed both officially by Microsoft spokespeople and in an accidental leak through the firm's Knowledge Base system, where details of some new functions were published briefly ahead of time.
The most important enhancements in the new update, which is expected to arrive within the next fortnight, will be to the functionality of Xbox Live Marketplace - the content download system which has proved wildly more successful than Microsoft originally predicted.
The interface for locating content on Marketplace will be significantly improved with the addition of new categories, which subdivide the content into more easily manageable groups, and a specific function within each category to view only recently added items.
This will help to solve the problems which have arisen with navigating the service in recent months, as there are now over 1000 pieces of content on the service, but it has not been significantly reorganised since it launched in November.
Perhaps the most sought-after feature which will be added in the new update is background downloading, which will allow users to set up a queue of content to download which will continue to execute while they do other things on the system.
Media functionality will also be enhanced, with better control over the playback of downloaded video clips, the ability to place bookmarks in DVD video content, and consistent playlists which continue working as you switch between functions on the console.
It will also be possible to directly boot to the Dashboard rather than to the disc in the drive, a much-requested feature on the part of those who use the Xbox 360 as a media extender.