Steve Ballmer recently stated that 2012 will be "the most epic year in Microsoft's history." Kicking off the most exciting week in Microsoft's history, Microsoft roll out a major update to the Xbox dashboard and launched Xbox SmartGlass.
Microsoft notes, "we will rapidly accelerate the reach of Xbox entertainment from more than 67 million consoles to literally hundreds of millions of devices worldwide." Adding, this week, "it will increase global reach of Xbox entertainment experiences to 222 countries from 35."
During the last couple of years, "we have grown our global entertainment portfolio to more than 62 TV and entertainment partners," Microsoft adds.
Also, starting this fall, Microsoft will be rolling out the "Entertainment for All" pricing plan making Xbox 360 available for $99 (when sign up for 2 years of Xbox LIVE). "Entertainment For All Plan will include U.S. retailers: Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, Toys R Us and the Microsoft Store."
Here is what 's new today:
The new dashboard update rolling out to every Xbox 360 owner in the world brings entirely new TV entertainment experiences include: Web to the TV with Internet Explorer, a brand new music service, and making it even easier to find the entertainment using Kinect and Bing voice search.
It also offer improvements to Bing on Xbox, making it easier to discover the entertainment content. "Not only have the overall voice recognition capabilities and accuracy of Bing on Xbox been improved, but also the following features are added to help refine searches".
Microsoft dubbed this update as the next step in transforming Xbox 360 from a games console to an all-in-one entertainment system.
- Search the Web from Your TV: With the addition of "Internet Explorer," you can now search across the web, as well as the content on your Xbox, to find the most relevant results. Bing on Xbox also searches YouTube for web original video.
- Music Search: You can also search the new Xbox Music service for your favorite artist, song or album, and then sit back and enjoy. Similarly, Bing will power the search in the new Xbox Music app for Windows 8.
- Genre Search: In addition to searching by actor/artist, title or game, you can now search by genre to find all content within specific categories like action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi. How does it work? Simply say: "Xbox, Bing, Action," and you will see a list of action movies across Xbox.
- Bing voice search expands to new markets in addtion to existing US, UK, and Canada.
- Recommendations and Ratings. Recommendations will allow you to discover new movies, TV shows and games, generated based on a number of variables including the content you previously viewed, what your friends are consuming and what is most relevant and popular with our Xbox community. You can now rate content yourself and also see Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
- Xbox Video. Formerly called Zune Video Marketplace, Xbox Video offers hundreds of thousands of TV shows and movies for buying or renting in instant HD streaming.
- Pinning lets you personalize the dashboard by saving your favorite movies, TV shows, games, music, videos and websites right to the home screen. It's as easy as opening an app or a favorite movie and clicking "pin."
Further, the company says, shortly after the launch of Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8 devices, they'll flip the switch on four new experiences:
- Xbox Games for Windows 8 will bring many of the games you already know and love, like Angry Birds Starwars, Jetpack Joyride, Fruit Ninja and more. These games will be playable on any Windows 8 PC, laptop or tablet. All Xbox games for Windows 8 will allow you to earn the Achievements that you we know you love; and many will also take advantage of other Xbox features, including leaderboards, multiplayer modes, and connecting with friends.
- Xbox Music built from the ground up, to meet all your music needs across your tablet, PC, Phone and TV. Xbox Music is the ultimate all-in-one music service, featuring free music streaming on Windows 8 tablets and PCs, download to own, subscription, artist-based radio, plus comprehensive discovery from one of the world's largest music catalogs.
- Xbox Video is a first run video service offering tens of thousands of movies and TV shows for buying or renting in HD.
- And, finally, Xbox SmartGlass, which offer multi-screen entertainment experiences (off the console to a phone, a tablet and a PC.
For those now aware, "Xbox SmartGlass is a free downloadable app that takes Windows 8 and RT tablets and PCs, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android devices, and converts them into smart second screens for the entertainment you are enjoying through your Xbox."
With Xbox SmartGlass, you can:
- "Navigate your Entertainment - Your phone and tablet will become the best remote controls in your house. Use the touch screen on your smartphone or tablet to control your Xbox 360, and use your devices to pause, rewind or advance entertainment.
- TV & Movies - With Xbox Video, start a TV show or movie on your Windows 8 tablet and finish it on the big screen through Xbox 360; see the names of cast and crew for the film you are watching and discover related films.
- Sports - While watching the game, use a second screen to follow real-time stats, player bios, news and highlights you may have missed.
- Music - Control your Xbox Music experience on the TV using your smartphone or tablet, discover related artists and songs, cue up additional music, read artist bios and more.
- Internet Explorer for Xbox - The Web comes to TV like never before with Xbox 360 and Xbox SmartGlass. With your smartphone or tablet, pan or pinch and zoom to explore the Web on the largest and best screen in the house, enjoy easy text entry with the keyboard on your tablet or phone, and then move your browser back to your device to take it on the go.
- Games - Get more from your game when you can use a second screen. Turn you phone or tablet into a virtual GPS in Forza: Horizon. Don't stop the dance party in Dance Central 3 by going back to the menu to choose your next song. Instead, queue it up on your tablet or smartphone. In HomeRun Stars, use SmartGlass on your favorite device to throw a surprise pitch to your friend up at bat in front of Kinect. See detailed stats on how you are progressing in Halo 4, or check up on friends. All of these features and much more will be available when your favorite game extends to multiple screens," informs Microsoft.
Finally, Microsoft also launched today NBA Game Time to Xbox LIVE in the U.S. and joins the existing lineup of sports partners - including ESPN, UFC and MLB.
With this launch, "Xbox is taking live sports on TV to a whole new level with personalization features, deeper interactivity, and social connectivity found only on Xbox 360," Microsoft stated.
Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers in the U.S. now have access to their favorite NBA teams and players anytime right from their Xbox. And, it will be launhced in all Xbox LIVE countries following shortly after.
NBA Game Time offer following features:
- Live Games, Highlights, and Replays in HD -You'll have access to every live regular season game, available in HD. All the games are available in replay, so you can watch on your schedule. And, if you're short on time altogether, watch the condensed game recap in less than 10 minutes, or just take in the quick highlights.
- My Teams - Obsess over your favorite team and get up-to-the-minute stats on your favorite players. With NBA Game Time on Xbox 360, getting to the details is quick and easy. And to make sure you are in the know, add 4 other teams to follow.
- Stats & Standings: Want to know what's going on around the league? With Stats & Standings, find out which team is leading a conference or which players top the leaderboards in PPG, RPG, and more.
- Scores & Schedules - NBA Game Time on Xbox 360 gives you quick access to the scores you want and the schedules you need - right on your big screen. Feel free to turn those scores off too - so you can catch up on your game a little late, without the spoilers.
- Mini Guide - The mini-guide gives you a quick preview of all of today's games right at the bottom of your screen, and makes it easier than ever to switch between games.
- Split Screen - Watch two games at once, or watch a live game on one screen while you catch up with highlights or a replay on the other.
- Voice and Gesture Control with Kinect for Xbox 360 -- Focus on the court instead of looking for the remote. Navigate through the games, skip to the next quarter, or play, pause, and rewind that buzzer beater…all with the sound of your voice or the wave of your hand.
Update 10/27: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition Halloween Skin Pack available for free download from marketplace.
"For a limited time only, we're raising some money for good causes. A load of cool games developers have helped create this collection of fun Halloween skins! Some even include capes! 100% of the purchase price will be divided amongst the designated causes," Microsoft stated.
Go to PlayXBLA.com for information on which good causes will benefit and the proportion of funds that will go to each.
Get it here.