Microsoft has seen fit to redesign just about every aspect of the Xbox 360 since launch, but one thing they never bothered to touch was the official universal remote. The long, white wand first released right alongside the console in 2005 and, almost six years later, it has remained unchanged. Until November, that is. Yes, as you can see in the above shot, Microsoft is giving the remote a fresh look, and while they're at it, they're updating the wireless headset as well.
The new universal remote takes on the design of the new Xbox 360, with all the black shininess you'd expect from a new Microsoft product. In addition to controlling things like Zune Marketplace and Netflix, the remote will be able to navigate live TV on the 360, presuming it's supported by your ISP. It's also markedly cheaper than the old one, coming in at just $20.
As someone who uses Netflix a ton, I've found that having a remote, instead of having to use the 360 controller, is a huge time saver, as I don't have to worry about it powering down automatically and then taking time to sync back up again. Sure, it's a lazy excuse for another remote, but when you're knee-deep in the second season of "Torchwood," it's OK to be lazy.
In addition to the remote refresh, Microsoft is also refreshing its wireless headset. The new headset, which will sell for $60, has the same black finish as the remote and it adds Bluetooth support, which means you can use it with other wireless devices beyond the 360. Unfortunately it'll still use Microsoft's proprietary radio signal for voice chat, and the last wireless headset was a bit notorious for being delayed and static-prone. Here's hoping that radio tech has seen a bit of a refresh, too. Oh, and if you could make it so my ear didn't turn bright red after wearing it for an hour, that'd be super.
The new designs for both the wireless remote and headset are scheduled for release in November.