Microsoft has announced its solution for connected television with a feature for its Xbox console that it calls SmartGlass. What if you could access the web on television with a simple swipe of a tablet touchscreen, or view related features on a phone while watching a programme? These are among the connected television experiences that Microsoft envisages for SmartGlass, provided users have a network-connected Xbox 360 attached to their television.
SmartGlass is an application for Windows 8, Windows Phone and other portable devices that connects them to an Xbox 360 console.
“With Xbox SmartGlass, we are lighting up entertainment across your phone, tablet, PC and TV in a completely new way,” said Don Mattrick, the president of the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft.
At the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, two years after the launch of Kinect, its motion sensing interface for Xbox 360, Microsoft revealed the next step of its journey to extend the Xbox entertainment experience by announcing SmartGlass, together with an Internet Explorer web browser for Xbox and new television, movie and music offerings.
Internet Explorer will be available on Xbox from the autumn. Together with Kinect and SmartGlass it will enable use of the web on television with gesture control and navigation through a handheld device.
In so doing, Microsoft will be bring smart television capabilities to any set connected to an Xbox 360, of it has sold over 66 million worldwide, almost all of them connected to a television and 40 million of them connected to the internet through Xbox Live subscriptions.
Microsoft is extending the range of sports programming available on Xbox later in the year, with offerings from NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and in the United States live coverage of NFL, MLB and the NBA through ESPN. Microsoft has also announced a number of other programming partners, including some you may have heard of, with availability varying by country.
Xbox on Windows 8 will launch with four apps using its new Metro user interface, covering video, music, games and Xbox SmartGlass. Microsoft says it means users will be able to play games with friends, listen to music or watch television shows and movies wherever they go, with the option to start watching on a Windows 8 device and finish viewing on television.
Some SmartGlass enabled content and features will require an Xbox Live Gold subscription and service availability will vary by region.
In some respects this is a response from Microsoft to Apple features such as AirPlay. Notably, it is reported that Microsoft will include support not only for its own Windows platform but also for Apple and Android devices, although how far this commitment will be fulfilled remains to be seen.