What the Xbox Companion App for Windows 8 is and isn't!

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Windows Phone 7 first introduced the Xbox Companion App. It’s also seen in the recent Consumer Preview of Windows 8. Even though it has been out since December on Windows Phone 7, people are still wondering what it is. Unfortunately for many, the grand rumors you may have heard are false: it does not allow you to play Xbox 360 games on your PC. It is what it’s name describes: a Companion App to be used along side the Xbox 360. It’s a series of shortcuts. Your phone has already been connected to Xbox Live via your Windows Live ID. As long as your Xbox 360 is turned on, your Gamertag is signed in, and you have the option for the Xbox Companion App enabled in your dashboard settings, when you launch the app, it will seek out your gamertag on the Xbox Live network and connect your phone to your Xbox 360. This allows you to see a description of what’s on your Xbox 360, and navigate the dashboard, from your phone. Not visually, however. You still need your TV for that.

Here is a look at the main screens in the Windows Phone 7 app (captured blurrycam style from an Android phone I had laying around):

Up first we have the Home Screen. On this screen you get a description of any game or app you are currently playing, or any media you are viewing. It acts as a “quick launch” screen for switching between apps or games on the 360. If you’re vieweing a movie, for example on Netflix, it also has media controls such as play and pause.

The next screen is filled with featured conent from the Zune marketplace. Much like the current dashboard itself, this section promotes and makes it easy to access music, movies, and music videos.

The Bing section allows you to search for content in the same way that the Xbox 360 does, now. It’s like using Kinect, without your voice! 😉 You can search for key words and then use the app as a means of purchasing or launching an application, game, piece of content, etc…

Finally, by clicking a small icon in the lower right of the screen you can access the controls screen. This does exactly what it sounds like and lets you act like the controller of the Xbox 360, for navigating the dashboard in particular. For example moving your selection on your screen to the headers at the top, then over to system, and shutting down the console.

The app for Windows 8 is very much the same idea, but it’s expanded on just a little bit. The bing search results expand out gloriously right before you on the screen:

And when you choose “discover Xbox 360 games” you have beautifully arranged categories at the top of the screen and can select Indie Games and see a large spread of games which you can buy, download, or quicklaunch on your console, all from your desktop.

Why go to all this effort? What was the point? I think this is just an early test. A “proof of concept” for much bigger things down the line. You have a controller or a media remote to do all of these things already. So what’s the point? It’s a framework they can build upon, I think. That’s the point. It’s expected that Apple will announce today something big, like the iPad 3 or whatever name it will be given. There are also some pretty strong rumors that a new Apple TV will also be released and allow you to stream content from your iPad to your Apple TV and vice versa. I’d like to imagine that Microsoft is just beginning to lay the groundwork for easy communication between your phone, your PC, your tablet, and your console or whatever “set top box” device takes over after (“under set box” may be the appropriate term, these days?). It seems more and more likely that Microsoft might actually try to sell the Xbox 365 (or whatever it will be called) as a media center extender rather than a gaming console. But we’ll its true purpose. 😉

For now Xbox Companion’s role is a wait and see, but I like to think that just by using the app from time to time, my usage statistics are being secretly gathered up by the Microsoft gnomes and showing them that people are interested in blurring the line between all of these technologies, and bringing them all together.