Tricia Duryee and Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Tricia Duryee

A Closer Look at “SmartGlass” With Xbox’s Marc Whitten (Video)

One of the big surprises this year at E3 was Microsoft’s announcement that it had developed technology that lets you use your mobile devices as a remote control and keyboard for the TV screen.

Microsoft Xbox Live’s Corporate VP Marc Whitten gave an overview of the application, dubbed “SmartGlass,” to All Things D today, after making the announcement during the company’s entertainment-packed press conference Monday.

The app, which he said has been under development for about a year, will be available this fall on iOS, Android and, of course, Windows Phone.

In the video below, Whitten demonstrates how SmartGlass can be used as a keyboard to enter URLs to surf the Web using Internet Explorer on the Xbox. Whitten easily typed in AllThingsD.com and then navigated around the page by dragging his thumb across the phone’s screen.

Whitten says that to get the app up and running, all the user has to do is log in to both the Xbox and phone with their Xbox credentials. There’s no syncing required over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

A big trend this year at E3 is being able to play games and access other entertainment over multiple devices, and, of course, that’s the centerpiece of Nintendo’s upcoming hardware launch of the Wii U, which comes with a tablet. In both cases, Nintendo’s GamePad and the SmartGlass technology will also provide an ancillary screen for gaming, where users will be able to view maps or access other information that is not currently on the TV.

Whitten said the upcoming launch of SmartGlass was not a defensive move against the popularity of mobile devices, including phones and tablets.

He declined to compare the SmartGlass technology to Nintendo’s Wii U, but said their solution is based on watching and learning from millions of Xbox users, and not from “drawing it all up” in a “magical world.”

“Once you build habit, and they are using it,” he said, “then you are learning because what you originally thought was probably wrong. You probably had good ideas, but good ideas need customers and then good things come from that.”

Given that neither is available commercially, I guess we’ll have to wait and see to draw our own conclusions on how the two stack up.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik