Yesterday I reported on the rumored Microsoft Smart Glass technology that was expected to be shown off today. All signs pointed to a product designed to compete with Apple's living room business strategy. The service would give the capability of streaming a video from your phone or tablet to your television through your Xbox 360. It would have been a major head start on Apple and their desire to control your life. The service that was actually announced, however, was a little different and infinitely more useful.
Xbox SmartGlass, as the service will properly be called, is an extension and major enhancement of the Xbox LIVE Connector, the app on Windows Phone and Windows 8 that allows you to control certain aspects of your Xbox through your alternative devices. There are two aspects to the service: gaming and media (big surprise there). Let's cover gaming first. SmartGlass will allow game developers to enhance the gaming experience in a way never quite explored. It is building on the concept of services like Call of Duty: Elite, but making them part of the game. One great example shown off during their press conference was an interaction with the new Halo 4. When a new waypoint is reached, your phone or tablet can light up and let you know information about where you are, such as maps or personnel. While the game is totally capable of being played without this, an enhancement of this type is a great way to make it feel more like you are IN the game world.
Gaming isn't all that Xbox offers. Hit the break to find out how Microsoft plans to enhance the media side with SmartGlass.
I know you use your Xbox for media - it turns out everyone is. Because of that, the media features of SmartGlass are pretty impressive. You can start a movie or TV show on your tablet on the plane, then get home and finish it on the television through your console, all without having to re-watch anything. This is similar to how Hulu and Netflix work natively now, but there is a lot more content, including non-streaming, available through Microsoft's media platforms. This is a bit more of a slap in the face to Hulu and Netflix than it is to Apple.
While Apple's living room strategy is threatened by this new platform, there is a lot more to it than that. Microsoft is finally bringing Internet Explorer to the Xbox. Two things have made this possible. First, Microsoft is finally convinced in the security of their console to avoid getting viruses. Secondly, there is finally a good way to interact with it. Microsoft has said that keyboards are inappropriate in the living room, and the way to solve browser and keyboard requirements is through SmartGlass and Kinect. Between voice commands to Bing and keyboard and controls through your phone or tablet, it is finally possible to interact with the Internet directly on your TV. Microsoft even made a comment about MSN TV from years past that technology was not ready for browsing on the television.
It is also worth noting that the website now redirects to Xbox.com instead of a Bing search for "microsoftsmartglass." I am excited to see SmartGlass in action, and I don't mean a guided demo at a booth. I want my hands on it, and I want it tonight. Microsoft, make it happen.