Microsoft’s new $499 Xbox One console launched last November with its OneGuide vide interface and the ability to support live, linear pay-TV services by tethering the console to a set-top box via an HDMI cable, but that key feature got off the ground with a significant shortcoming – Xbox One users still had to toggle back to the set-top to access and control the set-top’s DVR.
That will change later this year when Microsoft releases a new version of its SmartGlass app for tablets and smartphones that will double as a fancy remote control outfitted with Microsoft’s new OneGuide, allowing users to not just navigate the live TV lineup, but also control the set-top DVR without switching inputs.
The new version of SmartGlass for Xbox One will also support a “Recent Channels” feature and give users the ability to turn the TV on and off independent of the rest of the system.
Microsoft said a “small number” of Xbox Live members in selection regions were identified and invited to use an early preview version of the new SmartGlass app. The company isn’t saying how many people were invited, but did note that it will use this period to gather feedback for features and other fine-tuning it will add before officially launching the new SmartGlass app sometime later this year.
Microsoft plans to extend additional invitations “in the coming weeks,” and have testers on board in every market around the world where the Xbox One has been launched, a Microsoft spokesman said via email.
For now, the Xbox One still lacks direct access to set-top-based VOD services, though several MVPDs and programmers have developed or are developing authenticated TV Everywhere apps for the new console that provide access to large on-demand libraries.
Also this week, Microsoft is enabling the HDMI-connected TV viewing capability for the Xbox One in Europe and Canada, a feature that previously was limited to Xbox One users in the U.S.
Among other new features, Microsoft also added a ‘rent once, play anywhere” capability to Xbox Video, its electronic sell-through service. Starting this week, Xbox Video who buy or rent a movie from the service can begin to watch it on one screen and resume it on another, if it’s being fed by the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows 8 devices, or at XboxVideo.com.
Microsoft has launched Xbox One in several markets, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, and has sold more than 3.9 million units so far.
In other Xbox-related news this week, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Monday announced that Phil Spencer is heading up all things Xbox, combining the Xbox and Xbox Live development teams with the contend side of the house. In his new role as Head of Xbox, Spencer is heading up the Xbox, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video teams, and Microsoft Studios.