With no new hardware releasing this year, Microsoft made sure to focus squarely on games and new experiences powered by Xbox 360. It was announced that this year the company’s seven year old console went from being the #1 selling game machine in North America to being the best selling console in the world. And with everything that Microsoft showed off at their E3 press conference this year, you’d be remiss to think that they’ll lose the crown anytime soon.
Before jumping into the exciting software titles Microsoft has in store for gamers in the not-so-distant future, let’s dive into the most talked about announcement coming out of their presser: Xbox SmartGlass. Leading up to E3, a rumor leaked that Microsoft was cooking up a new Xbox feature that would work similarly to AirPlay from Apple; one could wirelessly beam video content from a smartphone or tablet to the big screen TV in your living room. The leak became official at Microsoft’s briefing, but it would be proven that Xbox SmartGlass offers so much more than Apple’s AirPlay beaming. Real world examples follow. Start watching a movie on your tablet and with one click transfer it to your TV. As the movie is resumes on the big screen, your tablet doesn’t remain idle; instead it provides relavant content to what’s being played on your TV. Say you’re watching Sherlock Holmes; while it’s playing on the TV you can use your tablet to delve into the movie’s synopsis, cast, bonus features, and other content that pertains to the movie.
A neat feature, it still might not stimulate your appetite for SmartGlass. This will. Hop onto HBO GO and watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Through the power of SmartGlass you can follow the story that unfolds on the TV using your tablet as a guide through Westeros. In real time SmartGlass will help you keep up with the large cast of characters and goings-on with an expansive interactive map of Westeros. Microsoft is working close with content providers to bring these kind of experiences to Xbox, so this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In additional to expanding the world of movies and TV, SmartGlass will serve as a gaming controller of sorts to enhance gameplay for compatible titles. In Madden, for example, SmartGlass transforms your tablet into a playbook and allows you to create and execute routes using an innovative, touch-based interface. Will you be able to take control of Master Chief in Halo 4? Definitely not, but Microsoft showed off another way SmartGlass can enhance even the most hardcore games they offer. In Halo 4, Halo Waypoint data can be unlocked in-game and later accessed on your smartphone. Stuff like that. Again, Microsoft is spearheading the SmartGlass initiative, and soon we’ll see what game developers can think up to enhance their experiences by making them more interactive across multiple screens.
Movies, TV, games. What else will SmartGlass affect on Xbox? It will (at long last) enable Internet browsing on the console. Internet Explorer is coming to Xbox, and SmartGlass allows you to scroll and pinch-to-zoom on-screen content. Using Kinect you’ll also be able to control the web browser with your voice. SmartGlass also gives you the ability to navigate the Xbox dashboard using your fingers, in addition to your voice (Kinect) and a traditional controller.
Xbox’s Marc Whitten summed it up best when he closed the segment like this: SmartGlass is “when devices work together to immerse you in entertainment.” He also went on to make a great point. You already own the devices that will make SmartGlass a possibility: smartphones, tablets, PCs. There is no need to purchase an additional controller, peripheral or console (looking at you, Nintendo) to make a second screen experience a reality. The SmartGlass companion app will be compatible with Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones, as well as devices powered by iOS and Android. There is one catch, however. If you’re planning on beaming content from portable devices to the TV, said content must be purchased and rented from within Microsoft’s ecosystem, i.e. the Xbox Video storefront. With that said, Xbox SmartGlass is coming to Xbox, Windows 8, and the other aforementioned mobile platforms this fall.
Other announcements made at Microsoft’s press conference include: READ MORE E3 2012: Microsoft impresses with immersive Xbox SmartGlass experiences