Microsoft expands $99 Xbox 360 deal; Xbox rebirth coming

Microsoft will add two new Xbox 360 models to its fledgling subsidized console deal that lets you buy a low-priced Xbox 360 if you sign up for a two-year commitment to Xbox Live Gold at $15 per month.

The new plan, dubbed “Entertainment for All,” includes either a 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect bundle or a 250GB standalone console for $99. You can also pick up a 250GB Xbox 360 with Kinect for $150.

Microsoft says the new deal will be available at Best Buy, GameStop, Toys R Us, Walmart, as well as at the Microsoft Store. The new plans become available this fall, and a specific launch date was not announced.

Xbox reborn

Microsoft's new subsidized Xbox consoles are part of a bigger push that will transform the Xbox brand from just representing the company's gaming console to an umbrella for all of Microsoft's entertainment services.

The new Xbox era begins Friday as part of the Windows 8 launch, with new services becoming available such asXbox Music (replacing Zune), Xbox Games for Windows 8, Xbox Video (replacing Zune Video Marketplace) and Xbox SmartGlass.

If you're not familiar with SmartGlass, this is Microsoft's attempt to tie your smartphone, tablet, and television together via Xbox 360. The new service can transfer a movie you're watching from your tablet to your TV.

Xbox SmartGlass can also supply secondary information while you watch video on your TV, such as the names of actors and their characters that currently on your screen. You can also use SmartGlass to navigate to different scenes in the movie, much as a DVD menu works.

If you're playing a game, Xbox SmartGlass can supply information such as a campaign map or your character's inventory.

It's not clear which apps and services SmartGlass will support at launch; however, Microsoft says the following Xbox games, sports streaming services, and entertainment apps will support SmartGlass in the coming months:

Games:

  • Ascend
  • Dance Central 3
  • Forza Horizon
  • Halo Waypoint
  • Home Run Stars
  • Karaoke
  • Kinect Sesame Street TV
  • Prima Games

Sports:

  • ESPN
  • NBA Game Time
  • UFC

Entertainment Apps:

  • Elections 2012
  • HBO GO
  • MSN
  • NBC News
  • NOW TV
  • Slacker Radio
  • TODAY
  • Univision

New dashboard update

To prepare current Xbox 360 owners for the new Xbox world, Microsoft Tuesday rolls out its latest dashboard update worldwide that includes a version of Internet Explorer for the Xbox 360.

The new update also has a new video recommendations service; dashboard pinning for quick access to content such as your favorite movies, games, and websites; and improvements to search and the dashboard UI. Microsoft also said Xbox Video will be part of the new dashboard update, but it's not clear if the service becomes active on Tuesday or later in the week.

Microsoft hopes its new Xbox push will help the company become the dominant digital entertainment provider for living rooms, mobile devices, and PCs around the world. The company said Xbox will not only support Microsoft devices, but also many that run on the Android or iOS operating systems, which, the company said, will allow Xbox entertainment to be available on "hundreds of millions of devices worldwide."

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