Microsoft has started gradually deploying its fall 2012 Xbox 360 dashboard update, according to Major Nelson. In order to “ensure a stable release,” the update will be doled out in waves, with 3 million Xbox 360 owners getting in on the first wave of updates. “Additional users” will receive the update at some point during the next couple of weeks. It isn’t completely clear at this point whether or not the interesting choice of words by the Xbox Live director of programming means all users will get the update within two weeks. He did, however, request that those who don’t get in on the update right away remain calm and “just keep checking back in.”

In any case, 360 owners can expect a multitude of new features and some tweaks to existing dashboard elements. Following is the full list of changes straight from Major Nelson’s blog:

  • Refreshed Xbox 360 Dashboard. We’ve updated the UI with a few things, including an updated layout with more tiles, a combined TV & Movies channel and, in the US, a Sports destination.
  • Internet Explorer for Xbox. With Internet Explorer on Xbox, you can easily find and view internet content on the biggest screen in the house, including HTML5 videos.
  • Recommendations and Ratings. Recommendations will allow you to discover new favorites, generated based on a number of variables including the content you previously viewed, what your friends are consuming and what is most relevant and popular with our Xbox community. You can now rate content yourself and also see Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
  • Pinning. Pinning lets you personalize the dashboard by saving your favorite movies, TV shows, games, music, videos and websites right to the home screen. It’s as easy as opening an app or a favorite movie and clicking “pin.”
  • Xbox Video. Formerly called Zune Video Marketplace, Xbox Video offers hundreds of thousands of TV shows and movies for buying or renting in instant HD streaming.
    Recent. Previously called Quick Play, the Recent view gives you a list of movies, games, apps or other types of content that you most recently accessed on the console.
  • Enhanced Search. The last Xbox LIVE update brought Bing voice search to Xbox so you could use voice to search for movies, TV shows, actors, directors and artists. This year we added genre search to the list, so now you can search for action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi. Bing voice search now includes results for video across the Web, including YouTube.
  • International Expansion of Voice Search. We’ve expanded our Kinect voice search capabilities to 9 new countries – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Ireland.

The Xbox team up in Redmond has also been busying itself with readying Xbox Music for a simultaneous release with the dash update. Xbox Music, which will replace the Zune Marketplace, is available now to any 360 owner who has gotten the fall update. Windows 8 PC, tablet and phone buyers will also gain access to the service when Microsoft’s new operating system launches on October 26 and as Windows Phone 8 devices become available. Thirty million songs are available globally as part of the launch.

Xbox Live Gold subscribers can gain unlimited access to commercial-free streaming music by purchasing an Xbox Music Pass for $9.99/month. Windows 8 users, meanwhile, will initially be granted free unlimited streaming. The Verge has discovered that this free pacakage will be limited to a lean 10 hours each month after a six-month trial period expires.

Unfortunately Microsoft was unable to get the timing for SmartGlass, its second-screen technology, to match up with the initial roll-out of the dashboard update. The tablet and smartphone Xbox companion tech will launch with Windows 8 in less than two weeks on October 26.

Sources: Major Nelson, Microsoft and The Verge