June 4, 2012

E3: Microsoft Talks SmartGlass, Connectivity For All Screens

Enid Burns for RedOrbit.com

In its latest effort to breathe life in its Xbox, Microsoft announced Xbox SmartGlass, a connectivity that connects the Xbox, TV, and PC to tablets and phones to share and enhance content. The new service “connects devices you already own and love,” remarked Mark Whitman, head of Xbox Live at Microsoft. He presented SmartGlass at the Xbox Press conference ahead of the videogame trade show, E3.

Rumors were swarming before the Microsoft Xbox press conference on what “SmartGlass” would be after the blogosphere picked up on the registration of the SmartGlass.com domain, in addition to alternate domains that would prevent domain squatters from registering competitive web addresses.

SmartGlass ties the Xbox together with your tablet, smartphone, PC or other devices to either share or enhance content. Xbox SmartGlass is an application for Windows 8, Windows Phone and other portable devices that connects phones, PCs and tablets with your Xbox 360 console. While Microsoft wants the devices to be Microsoft or Windows-based, it´s also compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and devices on other operating systems.

“Xbox is on a mission to make the entertainment that you love even more amazing,” explains Don Mattrick, Microsoft´s president of the Interactive Entertainment Business, in a statement. “With Xbox SmartGlass, we are lighting up entertainment across your phone, tablet, PC and TV in a completely new way. If you love to play games, watch TV and movies, surf the web, or listen to music, there has never been a better time to be on Xbox.”

When viewing content on the TV, users will be able to get more information that´s synchronized with the show or movie. For example, while watching the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” a user can fire up a tablet connected with SmartGlass to view the exact location of each scene in the episode on a map of Westeros. While watching a game on TV, a viewer might get sports scores and stats from that game or others sent to him on his phone, through Xbox SmartGlass.

Whitman also explained that he began watching a movie on his tablet while flying home on business. After he got home and unpacked, he was ready to continue watching the most recent “Sherlock” movie, but wanted to continue on his TV. Whitman was able to send content from the tablet to the TV, and resume watching from the exact spot where he left off.

Microsoft also plans to make SmartGlass a tool for browsing the web when it launches Internet Explorer on the Xbox later this year. Microsoft realizes that keyboards don´t have a place in the living room, and made navigation possible through voice commands and Bing, its arguably struggling search engine. Voice navigation will occur through Kinect, the camera and microphone-based peripheral controller for the Xbox.

Voice commands only go so far with navigating the web, and Microsoft realizes that. Users can connect a tablet or smartphone through SmartGlass to scroll around a webpage and click links. By touching the screen of a connected tablet, the cursor will appear on the screen.

The aim with Xbox SmartGlass is to make experiences “more immersive, more interactive,” says Whitman. Right now, he says, “Your devices aren´t so smart, because they don´t work together.” Later this year, Microsoft expects it will change that with Xbox SmartGlass.

At the press conference, Microsoft also talked briefly about Xbox Music, a subscription-based music service that was originally revealed by sources under the working title of “Woodstock.” Not many details were offered, beyond the fact that the service will work across the Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8-based devices.