Windows Phone 7: Up close and personal with Xbox LIVE

Over at Gamescom much of the attention with regards to Windows Phone 7's Xbox LIVE hook-up understandably focused on the launch game titles that would be available on devices.

But Pocket-lint was also lucky enough to get some serious hands on time with the Xbox "hub", and was seriously impressed with the social features that Microsoft is including in its newest venture.

As well as carrying over your avatar from your console (don't worry you can also create a new one if you aren't a 360 owner), the hub will also give you access to your full profile, and the ability to edit it, including your gamer score, your collection, turn-by-turn invites and notifications, your achievements and the avatar wardrobe.

Everything syncs between your XBL platforms and there is also a programme area where you'll get weekly updates as to what is new in the WP7 XBL world.

Ron Pessner, general manager at Xbox LIVE's engagement management division also explained some added extras to us:

"We also have application that you can download that plugs into the hub so as when you click on the hub it will take you to a profile tile with a 3D rendering of your avatar with a number of animations incorporated".

What this means is that you can interact with your avatar. Not only can you bother him (or her) with a quick poke or pinch, you can shake him about leaving him feeling "bored or angry" or even make him pass out.

The Xbox LIVE hub's real strength, in terms of profiles at least, is the numerous social networking features that are included.

You'll be able to view your pals' avatars and profiles, see what their achievements are, and also see what they've been up to whilst signed in to the Xbox LIVE network.

One major feature that we can see being huge amongst WP7 users is the messaging service. Users will be able to send text style messages to their XBL contacts and the messages will show up on their friend's WP7 front screens in the same way a text or email does on smartphones now.

Pessner explains: "We pull through all notifications and they are shown in your requests area and will be pictured on the front.

"Just like you see new emails pictured on the front the notifications will be incorporated into the start tile and you'll see you've got a message waiting".

XBL messaging could, therefore, potentially take off in the same way BlackBerry messaging has amongst RIM users, especially if Microsoft develop the service to add extra features such as attachments or the ability to pin screenshots from XBL games into a message.

Do you think Xbox LIVE will help Windows Phone 7 put Microsoft back on the Mobile OS map? Or, is it a case of too little, too late. Give us your thoughts on all things WP7 below.