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Aiming to head off Apple, Microsoft shows off Xbox SmartGlass mobile app and Xbox dashboard update

Hoping to steal a little thunder from Apple’s expected iPad Mini announcement today, Microsoft announced details of its Xbox SmartGlass app, which extends your entertainment experience across the screens of the TV, tablet, phone, and PC.

Yusuf Mehdi, the chief marketing officer at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Division, said in a blog post that the new app is part of why, as Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer promised, 2012 will be “the most epic year in Microsoft’s history.” On Friday, Microsoft is introducing its Windows 8 operating system and its Surface tablet. SmartGlass is a way to tie everything together, allowing you to take a video on your phone and play it on your TV or get more information about an actor on your flat screen via your tablet.

Microsoft is also showing off a new dashboard update for the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live online entertainment service. Included is the recently announced Xbox Music service.

“We are bringing the web to the TV like never before with Internet Explorer, launching a brand new music service, and making it even easier to find the entertainment you love using Kinect and Bing voice search,” said Mehdi. “This release is the next step in our journey to transform Xbox 360 from a games console to an all-in-one entertainment system.”

SmartGlass will introduce “amazing multiscreen entertainment experiences,” said Mehdi.

Microsoft is also making improvements to Xbox Games and Xbox Video.

Microsoft said it has 67 million consoles in the market, but now the Xbox experience will become part of hundreds of millions of devices worldwide as it adds to the tablet, PC, and smartphone Windows experience.

Mehdi said, “We realize some may ask, ‘Why are all these apps called Xbox? Isn’t Xbox just a game console?’ For us, the decision to have Xbox stand for our broad entertainment efforts was a simple one. It is a natural evolution of our consumer offering. Even as Xbox has become the number one game console in the world and continued to deliver arguably the best lineup of games in our history, we have seen the use of Xbox broaden to watching TV/movies and listening to music.”

Xbox has 62 TV and entertainment partners. With SmartGlass, Microsoft is recognizing it’s a multidevice, multiscreen world. SmartGlass will make it easier to discover entertainment and access it on Windows 8, Windows RT tablets and PCs, Windows Phone 8, iOS, and Android devices.

With SmartGlass, the available features include the following:

– The ability to use your phone and tablet as remote controls for your Xbox 360 so you can use those devices to pause, rewind, or advance entertainment.
— Starting a movie or TV show on a Windows 8 tablet and finishing it on the big screen through an Xbox 360. You can see the names of cast and crew for the film you are watching and discover related films. The upcoming season of HBO Go’s Game of Thrones will offer Xbox SmartGlass experiences.

– Watching sports on the TV while using a second screen to see follow real-time stats, player bios, news, and highlights you may have missed. This includes SmartGlass-compatible versions of NBA Game Time, ESPN, and UFC in the coming months.

– The ability to access Xbox Music on multiple devices, discover related artists and songs, cue up additional music, and read artist bios.
— Internet Explorer for Xbox, bringing web surfing to the TV. You can use your smartphone or tablet to pan or pinch and zoom to explore the web on the largest and best screen in the house.

– Using second screens to enhance the experience of upcoming games such as Forza: Horizon and Dance Central 3.

[Picture credit: Microsoft]


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