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New Xbox update delivers SmartGlass, Xbox Music and Internet Explorer
Steve Ballmer recently stated that 2012 will be “the most epic year in Microsoft’s history.” In the coming weeks Microsoft will treat us to the newest version of their operating system - Windows 8, new handsets from the likes of Nokia and HTC running Windows Phone 8, and the company's first foray into the tablet market with Surface. Before all of that though, we begin with the world's best-selling games console - the Xbox 360.
Following on from last year's dramatic Xbox dashboard refresh - Microsoft has again ushered in a wealth of new entertainment experiences with its free, annual Xbox LIVE update.
The free Xbox LIVE update includes all-new television experiences, new Internet Explorer functionality, a new music service, and new tools from Bing and Kinect to get the most out of their Xbox. Let us guide you through the exciting new additions to the Xbox experience:
Xbox SmartGlass - a second screen for your Xbox
Xbox SmartGlass was first demonstrated back at E3 in June 2012 - and is Microsoft's innovative new 'companion' app for Windows 8 tablets and mobile devices. Read the first reveal.
Xbox SmartGlass is a free app that connects your devices to your Xbox entertainment. Xbox SmartGlass turns your Windows devices (so, Windows 8 PCs, tablets, Windows Phone 8 etc.) into a powerful, “smart second screen”. For example, start watching a movie on your tablet on your journey home from work, then send it to your Xbox 360 with just the click of a button when you get home. Voila! You can pick up where you left off, with no interruptions.
That's not the only trick however - using the free Xbox SmartGlass app, you can use your tablet or phone as a remote control, game controller or as a second screen. Of all of these, the second screen is the most intriguing: when Xbox demonstrated SmartGlass to assembled members of the tech press, they gave us a few examples like using SmartGlass to watch a movie, episodes from a TV show or listening to music.
Because Xbox SmartGlass always knows what you are watching or listening to, it can provide you with relevant bonus content - so this will include everything from displaying character bios and actor details in a given scene, to a list of similar artists and playlists of music you might like.
Xbox Music will be available on all Windows 8 devices and the Xbox 360 console. iOS and Android apps are in the works.
Xbox Music - free streaming of 30 million songs
We recently reported on Microsoft's new streaming service - Xbox Music, that is set to go up against Spotify and iTunes.
With Xbox Music, users can listen to individual songs or full albums for free on their Windows 8-based tablet and PC. Anybody with a Windows 8 device will have access to Xbox Music's 30 million-strong catalogue of songs when Windows 8 launches on 26 October. By creating a free account you'll be able to listen to as little or as much music as you like - all for free (thanks to an ad-supported model).
If you want music with the ads, Xbox Music offers a couple of competitive packages that offer even more flexibility - prices start at £8.99 per month and there's even a Xbox Music Store that will allow you to purchase, download and keep any music you choose.
Xbox Music also allows you to create music mixes and playlists, and listen along to artist-based Internet radio stations. And thanks to Xbox SmartGlass, as you listen on your tablet, PC, phone or TV, your screen comes to life with artist photos, bios, cover art and discography.
Gaming - new ways to interact
Gamers shouldn't feel left out - Xbox is building SmartGlass experiences into some of their biggest franchises (starting with Forza Horizon and Dance Central 3). In the case of Forza, racers will be able to use the built-in GPS in their car to track location details on a second screen. And if you're keen to jump onto Dance Central 3, use SmartGlass to queue up a track or pick a playlist while you wait for the previous player to complete their moves.
Xbox SmartGlass will allow you to beam your movies, games and music to other Windows 8 devices.
Internet Explorer on your TV
Web browsing doesn't need to be confined to your PC, laptop or tablet. With the latest update to Xbox LIVE your console will offer a full web browser experience on the biggest screen in the house.
Internet Explorer on Xbox is a smooth and visually appealing experience. Any users already familiar with the Preview versions of Windows 8 will immediately notice the similarity with Microsoft's desktop equivalent. We're pleased to report that it's also easy to use - even with the standard Xbox controller.
Use your left stick to move the large cursor (it's shaped like a teardrop) around - while the 'A' button makes a selection. You can bring up Internet Explorer's address bar by pressing 'Y', and from here you can also cycle through your Favourites and recently visited websites. Xbox SmartGlass also adds another useful addition - by using a second device users are able to pan, pinch and zoom the webpage they are on.
In an interesting move, Microsoft say they have discontinued their native Xbox Facebook and Twitter apps, instead the new Internet Explorer will direct users to the service’s web sites instead.
Internet Explorer on Xbox also supports Kinect, so if you choose, why not use your voice to search for your favourite sites?
How do I get it?
Xbox have begun to roll out the new experience to existing Xbox users - it is hoped the update will reach all outstanding consoles by the end of October 2012. Xbox SmartGlass will be available as a free downloadable app in Windows 8 which launches on 26 October and again on Windows Phone 8, launching 29 October.