While it may have been the game trailers that drew cheers from the crowd at Microsoft's Xbox briefing inLos Angeles this week, the partnerships and new features that thecompany announced signal its intent to expand the console's rolefar beyond gaming. "I absolutely think Microsoft is trying to build on its Xbox Liveadvantage and push more out from games," said IDC games analystLewis Ward. "Consoles are becoming like 'smart' set-top boxes butwith a massive game delivery advantage." Microsoft announced 35 content partners at E3 ranging fromNickelodeon for kids to Univision for Spanish speakers. TheNational Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League(NHL) will join Major League Baseball (MLB) in streaming gamesthrough the console. |
Sports fans will also be able to watch fourdifferent ESPN channels later this year. To see some of the new features and content announced for Xbox, watch a video on YouTube . Xbox will make content consumption different from traditionaltelevision viewing. For example, consumers could watch twobasketball games simultaneously and using Kinect voice commands,switch between the two.
With other voice commands, they could watchthe games on full or split screens. Adding a social component tothe games, fans can pick winners and share the picks with friends,which will appear in a carousel at the bottom of the screen. Xbox SmartGlass is a new feature that will let users consumecomplementary content across multiple devices. For example, duringthe presentation Xbox Live vice president Marc Whitten demonstratedhow a tablet could show additional information while watching theHBO series Game of Thrones.
While watching the program on the bigscreen, the tablet showed a map of where the scene was takingplace. In another demonstration, a gamer crafted a play on atablet, then executed it on the television screen in Madden NFL. SmartGlass will let users browse the Web using their smartphones asthe controllers. Microsoft announced that Internet Explorer willcome to Xbox, but didn't say whether other browsers would besupported.
Nintendo and Sony have Web browsers, but navigating witha game controller and typing without a physical keyboard have madethe browsers difficult to use. "We'll see on the implementation of it, but I think the vision isinteresting in that they can enable the Web browser hopefully in amore user-friendly way," said Ward. He thinks that Microsoft willdebut its next-generation console at E3 next year. "Partly what's going on with the SmartGlass announcement is thatthey're trying to pre-empt Wii U," said Ward, referring toNintendo's next-generation console that will ship before the end of2012. Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and videofor IDG News Service.
E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb .
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