Xbox to Talk to Second-Screen Devices, Surf the Web

Microsoft to Launch SmartGlass Apps on Oct. 26; Partners Include ESPN, HBO

Microsoft is extending Xbox video content to PCs, tablets and smartphones with the launch this week of Xbox SmartGlass, and is bringing the Web to TV with a version of Internet Explorer for the game console.

The company will launch Xbox SmartGlass on Windows 8 and Windows RT (the version of the operating system designed for tablets such as the Microsoft Surface) on Friday, Oct. 26. The free downloadable apps, also to be available for Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android devices, provide second-screen interaction with entertainment content on the Xbox, through partners including HBO, ESPN, NBC News and Univision.

“Xbox will be a gateway to the best in movies, TV shows, music, sports, your favorite games and instant access to your friends, wherever you are,” Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division, wrote in a blog post.

In addition, starting Tuesday, Xbox 360 owners worldwide will receive an update that will add Internet Explorer, provide access to the new Xbox Music service, and enhance search features with Kinect and Bing voice search.

“This release is the next step in our journey to transform Xbox 360 from a games console to an all-in-one entertainment system,” Mehdi said.

Microsoft now has more than 62 TV and entertainment partners for Xbox, including Comcast’s Xfinity VOD and Verizon’s FiOS live TV. Xbox Live subscribers now spend more time with entertainment apps than multiplayer games.

Initial partners for Xbox SmartGlass include HBO, which plans to introduce a second-screen experience for the next season of Game of Thrones, as well as MSN, NBC News, NOW TV, Slacker Radio, NBC’s Today and Univision.

Sports content partners include NBA Game Time, ESPN and UFC, which expect to launch SmartGlass experiences to follow real-time stats, player bios, news and highlights.

SmartGlass also will turn a smartphone or tablet into a remote control for the Xbox 360, to pause, rewind or advance entertainment. With Xbox Video, users can start a TV show or movie on a Windows 8 tablet and finish it on the big screen through Xbox 360; see the names of cast and crew for the film you are watching and discover related films.

Gaming partners for SmartGlass include Ascend, Dance Central 3, Halo Waypoint and Kinect Sesame Street TV.

“In the future, new games will be created, TV shows and movies will be re-imagined and sports will be broadcast from the ground up with Xbox SmartGlass in mind,” Mehdi wrote.

Microsoft worldwide has shipped more than 67 million Xbox consoles.

Starting this fall, Microsoft will introduce an “Entertainment for All” pricing plan offering an Xbox 360 for $99 when a customer signs up for two years of the Xbox Live service ($14.99 per month). The Entertainment For All Plan will be available from U.S. retailers including Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, Toys ‘R’ Us and the Microsoft Store.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also has introduced NBA Game Time on Xbox Live, providing daily highlights and updated stats for players and teams. Subscribers of League Pass Broadband, operated by Turner Sports, can watch every live regular season game in HD.