Microsoft Doubling Down on Video and Music for the Xbox

Microsoft is doubling the amount of content it offers on the Xbox this year with 35 new content partnerships and the introduction of a brand new music service it is calling Xbox Music.

The company spent the first 20 minutes of its press conference on major new game releases for the console, such as Madden 12 and Halo 4, to satisfy the crowd. But after a few obligatory game announcements, it turned its focus to a series of entertainment announcements.

The concentration makes a whole lot of sense today, given that more people are using their Xbox to watch video and listen to music online than they are playing multi-player games — for the hardcore gamers out there, sorry, but it’s true.

Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi said content partnerships coming to the platform include ESPN, NBA, NHL, Univision, Paramount and Machinima. He also announced a new music service, called Xbox Music, which will feature 40 million new tracks, and work across Xbox, phones and PCs.

While ESPN has been available before, he said this time the sports content will be available 24 hours a day and include SportsCenter, ESPN2 and other favorites. He did not say whether users would also have a cable subscription to access it, which has been the case with content in the past.

Microsoft also announced “Xbox SmartGlass,” which will allow Xbox users to pick up a video on their phone or tablet where they left off on their console. With Xbox SmartGlass, the tablet will also act as a kind of controller for games. For example, Microsoft demonstrated how a gamer can pause Halo 4, check his tablet for the specifications of the gun, then resume the game on the TV.

This integration between tablets and console was expected, but definitely steals a bit of Nintendo’s thunder, which has created a proprietary Gamepad tablet that interacts with its upcoming Wii U console.

And if that wasn’t enough content for the Xbox, Microsoft is also bringing Internet Explorer to the game console. Marc Whitten, who heads up Xbox Live, said people are always asking, “When will you bring the Web to Xbox?”

“No one uses them [browers] because they are painfully slow. But with the intelligence of SmartGlass, Internet Explorer is coming to Xbox this year,” he announced.

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