Microsoft officially unveils new Xbox entertainment services and SmartGlass 'second screen' app

Microsoft has shown off its new Windows 8-optimised Xbox 360 services ahead of the new operating system’s launch later this week.

The company has revealed that it is centralising its music, TV and film, and games offerings through a central hub that packs quite some interesting features, extending some of the services that were already available to Xbox users. ITProPortal was on hand in London for a preliminary look at the new SmartGlass feature and series of other updates coming to Xbox consoles around the world.

SmartGlass, which was first unveiled at E3 in June, is Microsoft’s take on two-screen technology, enabling what appears to be a pretty seamless way of using your tablet or smartphone to control and watch content with tighter integration. Using SmartGlass from their Windows 8 or Windows RT devices, Xbox customers will be able to better manage their content via devices on the same Wi-Fi network.

For instance, you can pause a movie you’re watching on your tablet and resume it on your big screen through your Xbox. You can also use your smart device as a secondary screen to access additional information about the artist you're listening to or actors in the movie you're watching - no more pausing to go on IMDB.

"It's a good reason to buy a Windows tablet," said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft marketing vice president focused on Xbox. "Conversely, if you have a Windows tablet, it's why you will want to buy an Xbox.

Among a host of other features available through an Xbox 360 update that has already begun rolling out to customers, Microsoft has also introduced a new, HTML 5-based Internet Explorer browser for Xbox designed to be faster and more streamlined and packing an updated Bing search.

Microsoft also showed off Xbox Music, a new all-in-one music service due to take on rivals like iTunes and Spotify. It boasts some 30 million tracks and, as has become the norm, comes in two variations - a free ad-supported level and a paid option offering downloads and unlimited streaming. Based on Windows 8’s sleek, ‘modern’ UI aesthetic, a first look at Xbox Music suggests it could prove to be a serious contender in the music streaming sphere.

Microsoft has begun rolling out the SmartGlass feature, which will be available on Windows 8 at launch and will be coming to other platforms, including iOS and Android, in 2013.