If you still think of Xbox as a games console, Microsoft wants you to stop. With the launch of SmartGlass and Internet Explorer for Xbox, as well as its expanding and improving entertainment platforms, the humble Xbox is claiming its position as an all-in-one entertainment centre.
Xbox entertainment services are currently available on about 70m consoles in 35 countries, but this will be extended to 222 countries this week, opening up Xbox entertainment to hundreds of millions of console-owners.
This expansion coincides with the launch of Xbox SmartGlass, a free app compatible with Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Android and iOS. SmartGlass allows users to connect various devices to Xbox entertainment for an interactive multi-screen experience.
For example, a user can start watching a film on their tablet and then switch to the TV mid-viewing. Using SmartGlass, the film will continue on from where it left off and the portable device then becomes a window of information from the film – or music recommendations based on what the user is listening to, or real-time statistics from whatever sports they’re viewing.
The potential for enhanced transmedia content from producers is obvious and Microsoft has promised something groundbreaking alongside the next season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
When browsing Internet Explorer for Xbox, the big screen can be controlled with touchscreen gestures on a smartphone and, when gaming, the second screen becomes an additional asset to gameplay, such as a virtual GPS in Forza, or a queued-up playlist in Dance Central 3.
As Microsoft drives to have the Xbox brand seen as a hub for all manner of entertainment, what was once a games console is now a complete entertainment service, opening up exciting possibilities for games and apps developed for this multi-screen entertainment hub from the ground up.