Ahead of the official launch of Windows 8 this Friday, Microsoft has started fleshing out the detail of the SmartGlass concept it began discussing back at E3 in July and how it sees the Xbox changing in the future. The key thing you need to understand? Microsoft is now using the Xbox label for all its entertainment endeavours, not just the Xbox 360 console or any of its eventual successors — and as usual, the US gets options before Australia does.
Neither is a particularly surprising development. Xbox Live gaming options have always been a key part of the Windows Phone 7 experience. The recently-announced Xbox Music also uses the name. Utilising the brand more broadly is a logical move. Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for the interactive entertainment division at Microsoft, explained the logic in a blog post today:
For us the decision to have Xbox stand for our broad entertainment efforts was a simple one. It is a natural evolution of our consumer offering. Even as Xbox has become the number one game console in the world, and continued to deliver arguably the best line up of games in our history, we have seen the use of Xbox broaden to watching TV/movies and listening to music.
The other key element of that vision is SmartGlass, a series of apps which let you control your Xbox from other devices. iOS, Android and Windows 8 (in both standard and RT versions) will be supported. The apps are due for release on October 26, alongside the official Windows 8 launch.
Despite having a separate name, SmartGlass is reliant on the existing Xbox 360 console. As Gizmodo's first hands-on makes clear, while you can use SmartGlass as a very intelligent remote, it depends on being connected to an Xbox. We'll be curious to see if the Windows 8 SmartGlass app adds entertainment options from your PC rather than your console.
As is invariably the case with entertainment-centric launches, much of the emphasis is on the US. For instance, a new deal selling the Xbox for $99 if you sign up for two years of Xbox Live hasn't yet been replicated in Australia (though an announcement could form part of Friday's Windows 8 launch). There are plenty of Australia-centric Xbox apps (think Foxtel, iView and Quickflix for starters), but we haven't yet heard how those will tie into the new vision. All the content partnerships announced so far are with US channels.