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Microsoft Touts Coming Xbox LIVE Features for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360

Xbox LIVE may have started off as a way to bring Halo multiplayer features to other games, but it’s evolved past its video game roots into one of the most popular entertainment subscription services in the world. In the wake of this week’s E3 revelations, Microsoft explains how Xbox LIVE is expanding its offerings on the Xbox 360, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8, in the process confirming some news you read about here first.

Microsoft corporate vice president of Xbox LIVE Marc Whitten provided the update in an open letter to Xbox fans that was posted to a corporate blog. “Thanks to Xbox LIVE members like you we’re redefining the future of the living room, and I want to take this opportunity to share a more detailed look at what’s in store for entertainment on Xbox,” he wrote.

Coming non-gaming changes to Xbox LIVE include:

International Expansion of Kinect Voice Control and Search. Kinect motion control may be a flash in the pan, but as I’ve noted before the hidden killer feature of this hardware add-on isn’t hand flailing, its voice control. Of course, that only matter to you if Kinect speaks your language. So this year, Microsoft is expanding its voice search capabilities to 12 new countries while further expanding its Xbox LIVE service on Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox 360 in English, French, Spanish and Chinese worldwide.

Xbox SmartGlass. I already wrote everything you need to know about Xbox SmartGlass, but you’ll be amused to discover that Whitten mischaracterizes this coming mobile app as “a brand new Xbox innovation” even though it’s just the 2.0 version of an app that’s been around since last year.

Internet Explorer for Xbox. Microsoft is making Internet Explorer available for the Xbox, as you probably know, and while it will feature the IE 9 rendering engine, the Xbox version of the browser will closely resemble the Metro look and feel of IE 10 on Windows 8. And, as Whitten notes, “with the power of Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass, you’ll able to navigate websites with any device or the sound of your voice.”

Favorites. Microsoft is evolving its content pinning capability, available currently on the Xbox 360, into something called Favorites. Whitten explains: “Favorites allows you to personalize the dashboard by saving your movies, TV, games, music and the web right to the home screen in the dashboard. Favorites will make it easier and faster than ever to get to your favorite content on Xbox and Xbox LIVE.”

Xbox apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. As I previously noted in my Xbox Music Preview, Windows Phone 8 (and the Xbox 360) will also be getting the same Xbox apps that we’re seeing on Windows 8: Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video.

Improved Bing Search on Xbox 360. As highlighted during Microsoft’s E3 media briefing, the Bing Search features on the Xbox 360 are being evolved to include genre search in addition to the currently available movie, TV show, and actor search. Somewhat obvious, but welcome.

Xbox 360 Dashboard performance. Anyone who uses the Xbox 360, especially as a media hub, knows that the Dashboard is as slow as molasses. Whitten promises that will change, though I suspect a new console will be required before it’s truly “fast and fluid.” “We continue to invest in improving the performance of the Xbox dashboard,” he says, vaguely. “Whether you’re getting in and out of entertainment applications, browsing the games library or navigating large entertainment catalogs, we are working to make these experiences quick and seamless.”

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