Did Microsoft Beat Apple to the iTV?


Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) wants to be a TV star.

A mere 13 hours before Apple's (NAS: AAPL) tech unveiling event, Microsoft introduced Xbox SmartGlass.

Despite the hardware-ish name, this is actually a free app that will make tablets and smartphones engage with TVs being viewed through Microsoft's Xbox video platform.

Let's go over some of the features that make SmartGlass a potential game-changer.

  • Watching a video on your smartphone or tablet? A simple touch of the button bounces the stream to your television. You've seen that before, but it gets cooler. Let's say you're watching a movie on your tablet. The moment you transfer the flick from your tablet to your TV, your tablet becomes an info-heavy remote control. The tablet has information about the actors in a particular scene, for example. You can also quickly scroll through the video.

  • Music? Of course. The music can bounce from your device to your TV, and then your portable device becomes a music discovery tool as it figures out similar artists that you may enjoy.

  • Browsing the Web? It's the same deal. A simple touch of a button transfers a surfing session to your larger TV screen. The new Internet Explorer roars to life, and you can use your device's touchscreen keyboard to punch in text. Even the pinching, zooming, and scrolling gestures on your phone get acted out on the new TV-capable browser.

  • Even sports gets an engaging upgrade. Watching a game through Xbox gateways for ESPN, NBA Game Time, and others allows viewers to use their tablets or phones to call up stats, replays, and even engage in outcome prediction games with the Xbox Live gaming community.

Naturally all of these transfers to the big screen can bounce right back to portable screens when it's time to move.

Microsoft would love for that tablet to be one of the many Windows 8 devices hitting the market on Friday. It would also be tickled if you were interacting with a Windows-Phone-powered smartphone. However, the app is also available for the far more popular iOS and Android platforms.

Yes, Microsoft is willing to play nice with Apple's iOS and Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android, even though both of those companies have been trying to bridge the gap between TV and smart TV for a couple of years now.

How popular will SmartGlass be? There are naturally limitations to streaming content -- particularly live sports -- but one can never underestimate Microsoft's army of nearly 70 million connected Xbox console owners.

In a week where so much is happening at Microsoft -- to the point where SmartGlass may get lost in the shuffle -- it may actually be the smartest thing that Mr. Softy does.

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The article Did Microsoft Beat Apple to the iTV? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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