One of the biggest 360 stories this year was buried by the news avalanche that is E3. Live Anywhere is Microsoft's big, big project, connecting the three pillars of their family - Xbox 360, Windows Vista and Windows Mobile - into one big interconnecting happy family. MS main man Billy G (no relation to Warren G) claims that the project is so ambitious that "only Microsoft could pull it off". He's right. Full connectivity between the three platforms slams shut the doors of limitations and flings open the windows of opportunity - you can swap music and video files freely across all three formats, unlock Achievements on your mobile and improve your Gamerscore on your work PC. And let's not underestimate the importance of Xbox 360 owners being able to play online against PC gamers; while Xbox 360 will have a still-impressive six million users online by the time PS3 is launched, Live Anywhere will open the floodgates to a userbase of 150 million online PC gamers, the vast majority of which are likely to swap to Vista sooner or later. It's essential for all three platforms, and it will reinvigorate PC gaming. It will take mobile phone multimedia to the next level. And for Xbox 360, it will provide such a large headstart over the PS3 online that Sony's only possible reaction will be to cry real, salty, greedy businessman-tears. Here, we show you how it works:
PC and Xbox users tend to share similar tastes in games (Far Cry and Call of Duty, for example), so it's only logical that they take the camaraderie further and get to shoot each other in the face. The technology is already up and running - Microsoft demonstrated this with the otherwise-grim-looking Shadowrun at E3 - and while it's been confirmed that Halo 2 on Vista won't use the technology, forthcoming titles such as Crysis, Call of Duty 3 et al should be among the first. Worries about mouse and keyboard combos giving pads a severe beating when it comes to reaction times should be traded off against the knowledge that our Xbox 360's will allow us to pump them full of plasma while their screen pops up with cryptic messages such as 'Kernel32.dll has caused a fatal exception and must be closed'.
One of the more interesting 'idea-babies' to pop out from the 360-PC's 'electro-love' is the ability to fiddle around with the appearance of your dashboard on your PC and then upload it onto your 360 using Microsoft-branded witchcraft. We've been supplying content to you along this vein on our coverdiscs made of space-age moonrock alloys - the Dashboard update will merely increase the scale of the customisation, though it's debatable whether the results will be as sexy as, say, the blade decal, right.
Being able to pick up your emails on your mobile is all the rage at the moment, and now you can do it on your Xbox 360. Expecting an important email, and your Windows Mobile has been kidnapped and is being held hostage in a magpie's nest? No one wants to trawl all the way to the spare bedroom or wherever the PC is located to pick up an email - least of all mid-race or during a full-on firefight. A flick of the 360 dashboard, and a compelling mix of emails, Viagra adverts and Thai bride catalogues are all yours.
THE WINDOWS MOBILE...
The 360's biggest games will have downloadable skins and content that you can cram onto your phone and play around with on the go - Major Nelson's used Forza Motorsport 2 was wheeled out as an example at E3, demonstrating how you can fiddle with your cars' paintwork and later upload it onto your console. And there's also the possibility of trading items with your friends over mobile. Look for Spore and Viva Piņata to make full use of this technology when they hit the town called '360'.