Microsoft will be rolling out the first of several major Xbox Dashboard enhancements announced at E3 this year for US gamers in mid-September, the company said in a statement on its website.

When gamers boot up the Xbox Live service with no disc in the tray, a short download will bring them the new Live Dash, which offers instant access to the Friends list (without trawling through Account Management), and options from here to see what people are playing and send invites. Previously, this functionality was only available from within an Xbox Live title.

Furthermore, players will be able to set up a Voice Chat session right from the Dashboard, effectively giving Live users flat-rate voice communications over broadband.

Account Management will also be accessible from the main screen, along with a button to take players back to the comfortable old Main Menu should they be so inclined. By the look of the screenshot on, tournament announcements will also be made from the frontpage of the new menu.

This update is just the first of several changes to the Xbox Live system, with other planned initiatives including the introduction of XSN Sports, which will tally tournament/game results and rankings to be accessed over the Internet by computer, and tighter integrations with Microsoft's MSN internet services including Web Explorer and Messenger.

It's not currently clear when the Dashboard enhancements will come to the UK and the rest of Europe.

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