April 02, 2014, 6:02 AM —
So ironically, the day after I talk about Phil Spencer being named Head of Xbox and taking to the tech blogs to deliver the message that he's all about games, I'm going to talk about TV integration on the Xbox One.
Don't read too much into this; Microsoft isn't going to give up on this TV stuff after investing in HDMI pass-through for the Xbox One. I'm just glad the company had some REAL news to deliver yesterday when everyone else seemed determined to outdo each other with April Fools "joke" posts.
At our house, we watch TV through the Xbox all the time. We use the voice commands available to us to turn the gear on and off, to raise and lower volume and to see what's playing on live TV. It all works pretty well but like so many other families, we rarely watch live TV. We use a DVR to record stuff for later viewing and until now the Xbox One was useless when it came to content on the DVR.
Soon that will change...sort of. In an post on Xbox Wire (and in the video below) Microsoft's Larry Hryb and Ben Smith talk about changes coming to the Xbox Smartglass application.
The new Smartglass app gives you a touch interface to the Microsoft OneGuide and adds new features like a "Recent Channels" listing. But of most important to me is that the app will work as a universal remote which will let you control your DVR. It sounds like there's no real interface built around this; Smartglass will just take the place of your DVR remote. The interface you see on-screen will still be from the DVR itself.
Whether or not this adds to your TV viewing experience probably depends on if you're the type of person that always has a tablet handy to look up a familiar actor or some other trivia. If you don't, then your existing remote will probably be just as handy as Smartglass. Still it's nice to see improvements being made. Hopefully Microsoft will eventually find a way to partner with cable services to enable the Xbox One to 'see' what's on the DVR and allow us to control it directly, via voice.
A few other notes: Xbox Video will now support what they're calling "Rent Once, Play Anywhere." In other words you can rent a movie on your Xbox One, then pause it, pick up a Windows 8 tablet and continue watching on it. Honestly I just assumed this behavior was already in place but apparently not. Well better late than never!
The new Smartglass features are rolling out to a small 'invite-only' test audience today. There's no word on when the rest of us will get access.
As long as we're talking Xbox One, Microsoft and Twitch also announced that Twitch streaming on the Xbox One is a hit. On day one of the Twitch launch, 30% of the streams on the service were being broadcast by Xbox One players (most of them streaming TitanFall of course).
Congrats to Microsoft and all, but you have to laugh when you read things like: "This includes more than 2.7 million minutes broadcast from Xbox One March 10-11, the most ever for a Twitch console app in its first day." I'm not doubting it's true but (as far as I'm aware) the only other console with Twitch streaming support is the PS4 and it launched with that support. So the first day of Twitch on PS4 was launch day for the console, when there were a far smaller number of owners and most of them were probably exploring other facets of the device.
Marketing is funny, isn't it? But yeah, good job beating Sony on that Day 1 of Twitch App stat, Microsoft!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.