Xbox SmartGlass, as the technology is known, promises a host of new usage scenarios for digital devices and flat-panel TVs. For instance, users could employ a smartphone to control menus or interact with a Web browser on a big-screen television.
"Your devices aren't smart devices because they don't work together," said Marc Whitten, head of Microsoft's Xbox Live group, during a keynote Monday at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. "That's all about to change."
With that, Whitten demoed a number of ways in which Microsoft believes Xbox SmartGlass may be used to create new or enhanced digital entertainment and productivity experiences. Notably, he showed how a smartphone or tablet could be used to control a browser, while announcing that Microsoft plans to bring Internet Explorer 10 to televisions through Xbox Live.
"I can now take my phone and use it as the world's best remote control," said Whitten.
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Whitten used a tablet to launch IE10 on a big-screen monitor to get to a new website for Fox Film's Prometheus. "This is the Web transformed for TV," said Whitten. In another scenario, Whitten watched the HBO series Game of Thrones on the big screen while a tablet served up background content, such as maps showing characters' locations, in real time.
Whitten offered little information about how Xbox SmartGlass works, but it appears to comprise apps, software, and wireless technology that together are capable of roping multiple devices into an intelligent network. A software development kit is presumably on its way.
Xbox Glass will work with Apple's iPad and iPhones, but Whitten emphasized that it will be a key, natively supported feature on Windows 8 tablets, due to arrive this fall.
Microsoft used its E3 presence to announce a number of other significant initiatives. It plans to launch a streaming music service, dubbed Xbox Music, which will offer more than 30 million songs, and which will be available through Xbox Live and on Windows 8 PCs, tablets, and phones.
The company also announced a number of new sports content partnerships with providers such as the NHL, NBA, and ESPN. Users will be able to get programs from those providers streamed directly to their televisions through Xbox Live.
Microsoft also is working with game developers to help them create titles that take better advantage of the voice and motion control capabilities offered by Xbox Kinect. Upcoming titles such as Halo 4, Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and EA's Madden NFL 13 will include Kinect support.
At one point during the keynote, NFL great Joe Montana took the stage to show how Kinect lets users call audibles in NFL 13. "This brings back some great memories," said Montana. Hip hop artist Usher also appeared, showing off some dance moves while introducing the Kinect-compatible title Dance Central 3.
Microsoft clearly plans to integrate its Windows 8 products with Xbox and Xbox Live, a move that could help the company make some inroads against Apple and Google in the tablet and smartphone markets. Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment unit, noted that the Xbox is now the world's best selling entertainment console, a fact that should give Windows 8 systems a good head start out of the gate.
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