Unveiled today during Microsoft’s presentation at the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles, the Xbox SmartGlass offers to act as a bridge between Microsoft devices, enabling smartphones and tablets to be hooked up to Microsoft’s gaming console, namely the Xbox.
The device will allow users to operate the games they play via their handheld devices (either tablets or smartphones), access additional content as well as log on to the internet on their television.
Head of Microsoft's Xbox Live division Marc Whitten spoke about the SmartGlass’ cross compatibility, saying, "Xbox SmartGlass works with all the devices that you already own: the TV you already own, the phone you already own and the tablet you already own,” adding, "Xbox SmartGlass turns any TV into a smart TV."
The SmartGlass was shown to function beyond its mere gaming possibilities. During the demonstration, it was shown that while connected, users watching an episode of "Game of Thrones" could use the SmartGlass to locate characters on maps as well as detail cast and crew.
The SmartGlass is being seen as a competitor to Nintendo’s newly-unveiled handheld device, the Wii U, but industry analysts do not think it will be as versatile as Nintendo’s device. Speaking to the BBC, Stephen Totilo, editor for gaming website Kotaku, said, "It (the SmartGlass) lets Microsoft say that you don't need to buy new hardware to have a two-screen experience. Nintendo looked to be ahead of everyone else on this, but now Microsoft is breathing down its neck. But there may be a little bit of smoke and mirrors here as I'm not convinced SmartGlass will have as much functionality as the Wii U offers."
Microsoft also revealed upgrades on its Kinect device and a new entertainment platform. For the former, Microsoft showed off new additions to the Kinect motion, which allows the use of voice commands, as demonstrated in the titles John Madden NFL and Splinter Cell Blacklist. Through the Kinect, Microsoft is teaming up with sports brand Nike, which would offer users a free digital trainer.
As to the entertainment platform, the Xbox would now be serving as a hub for music as well through its Xbox Music service, which would offer up to 30 million tracks. This service would be made available to all Windows Phone and Windows 8 users with US customers getting extra services such as access to sports, film and animated content.