Hands-on with Xbox One June SmartGlass update, plus lots more apps coming to Xbox

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Source: Xbox.com

Microsoft has rolled out the June Xbox One update. This is the one that adds external USB drive support, automatic logins, (optional) real names in the Friends list, and a few other odds and ends. You can check out my post from last month for more details.

Along with the Xbox One update came an update to Microsoft's SmartGlass companion app. I was excited about this update because it promised to add a universal remote to control your entire A/V system, as well as a touch-enabled version of the Xbox One's OneGuide.

Unfortunately, the reality didn't quite meet my expectations. I tried out SmartGlass on both an iPad and a Nexus 7 Android tablet. On the iPad (a 3rd generation model), whenever I tried to launch OneGuide, the app crashed. I restarted the iPad in case something was wonky but the problem persisted; hopefully it was either unique to my iPad or something that can get patched up quickly. On the Nexus 7, OneGuide launched and worked like a dream. It was much easier than using the Xbox One's controller to navigate, and much less tedious than doing it via voice commands. In addition to all TV channels and Favorite TV channels there're screens dedicated to App Channels and Recent Channels. Great job on this system; OneGuide has now replaced my cable company's channel guide thanks to this update.

On to the remote features. The news is less good here. I should start my sharing that I'm a Time Warner Cable subscriber and have a cable box with a built-in DVR. Although the Universal Remote on the iPad Smart Glass app had a button for DVR, it wasn't active. On the Nexus 7 the Universal Remote didn't even have the button. There's a Menu button (on both versions) that opens up a menu from the cable box on the TV but then there's no way to navigate through it. The up & down arrows just change the channel running behind the menu.

Basically the universal remote is great for volume control, changing the channels while watching live TV, and that's about it. Hey it's better than nothing but I really hope Microsoft continues to iterate on this system until I can put the remote that TWC provides in a drawer somewhere. We're not there yet though, unfortunately.

So a bit of a mixed bag. Big thumbs up to OneGuide on the Nexus 7 (and presumably the bug on the iPad will be fixed in short order). The remote is OK for live TV but not for On Demand or DVR content.

Microsoft needs to keep refining SmartGlass too, because it is serious about both TV and streaming apps on the system. Yesterday they announced 45 additional apps coming to the Xbox One and Xbox 360, including deep Twitter integration with TV.

Check out Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb talking about Twitter, TV and the Xbox:

In case you don't have time for the video, I'll run down the highlights: show related hashtags in the OneGuide, a section of OneGuide that shows what TV shows are trending on Twitter right now, and a Twitter 'mini-guide' that pops up and obscures about 1/3 of the screen. This shows real time tweets about the show and lets favorite and retweet those you find interesting. (Hey Microsoft, wouldn't it be cool if when the mini-guide opened, the TV window shrunk so we could see the whole picture while the guide is open?)

I won't list all 45 new apps but some that caught my eye where HBO Go (which we already knew was coming to Xbox One), ShowTime Anywhere, STARZ Play, Comedy Central, CrunchyRoll, SyFy Now, NBA, NHL, iHeartRadio (happy to see that since it means Microsoft isn't going to try to force us to use only Xbox Music) and Vine. Xbox Wire has the full list.

Over on the dev side of the Xbox One, Microsoft's Phil Spencer tweeted "June #XboxOne software dev kit gives devs access to more GPU bandwidth. More performance, new tools and flexibility to make games better." Good news for everyone who loves gaming on the Xbox One!

There sure is a lot of Xbox One news coming out of Microsoft this week. It makes you wonder what they're saving for their E3 press conference on Monday!

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.

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