It was always odd to see Microsoft refusing year after year to bring a Web browser to the Xbox 360. Most of us always thought it was a matter of control. Microsoft only wanted you to see the content they had prepared for you on their digital content services. It turns out the true reason was not about them losing control, but rather giving you control.
Microsoft announced today at their E3 press conference that Internet Explorer would be coming to the Xbox 360 with Kinect and SmartGlass support. These two technologies have made it possible to browse the Web in a natural fashion. The company claimed that they didn't bring a Web browser sooner because using a controller is not a natural fit for browsing the Web and that a keyboard doesn't belong in the living room.
Ignoring those of us who in fact use a keyboard in their living rooms, Microsoft makes a sound argument. The browsers on both the Wii and the PS3 are really unintuitive and pretty much worthless. I used my PS3 browser only once as a last resort when the only Internet I could get was through wireless. It wasn't pretty and it really spelled out the problems with browsing the Web on a game console. It seems that Microsoft has found a solution.
Internet Explorer on the Xbox looks just like any other app on Xbox 360 or the forthcoming Windows 8. All your content is delegated to blocks which represent Web pages. You can scroll through them using voice commands or a mobile device through Xbox SmartGlass. The Web pages themselves can be explored using the a mobile device as if the tablet was a trackpad on a laptop.
It remains to be seen how much of the Web will be open to people using Internet Explorer on Xbox 360. The demo shown off today during the press conference made it seem like its in a controlled environment. It's Microsoft prerogative to protect its platform from those who would abuse it. That control may inadvertently turn off potential users from using the Web browser though. We've reached out to Microsoft for clarification and will update if we hear back.
Beyond the specifics of how Internet Explorer will really work on the Xbox 360, I guess the question is now whether or not use of Internet Explorer on Xbox 360 will count towards browser usage ratings. Chrome took the number one spot again, but a mass influx of users on Xbox 360 could put Internet Explorer back in the top spot again.
A recent press release from Xbox's Major Nelson reveals that Internet Explorer on Xbox 360 will require an Xbox Live Gold account. Use of Internet Explorer might not see a jump after all if they're going to put a browser behind a paywall. Regardless, Internet Explorer on Xbox 360 better be something special to justify paying for it.[Lead photo courtesy of The Verge]