Microsoft seeks to tie TVs, tablets and smartphones together to create the 'Companion Web'

Microsoft is today launching a new initiative called the "Companion Web" which is designed to bridge the gap between the various different internet enabled devices we already use in conjunction with one another.

As Bryan Saftler, Senior Product Manager, Internet Explorer explains, "more than 80 percent of smartphone-owning Americans use [their handsets] while watching TV. Of those smartphone users, 4 out of 5 use their phone to look up content relevant to what they’re watching". Microsoft feels this manual seeking of information could be replaced with a more cohesive, tailored and engaging experience.

"The majority of sites on the web are built for only one device at a time", Saftler says. "And while we move between our multiple screens, we have to do the work to piece together a unified experience. But what if we didn’t have to search on our tablet when we saw something interesting on TV, but instead the information we were looking for came to us? Content owners are starting to connect the dots, and they’re doing so through the Companion Web".

The idea grew from the success of Xbox SmartGlass which lets you use a mobile phone or tablet as a second screen so you can interact and engage with media in your living room using your Xbox 360. The Companion Web takes that idea and runs with it -- going far beyond just a simple second screen.

To provide an early idea of what’s possible, Microsoft has teamed up with Polar to create a Companion Web experience that offers consumers the chance to participate in and vote on content relevant to what they’re watching. In Windows 8, you snap IE to the side of the screen while you watch a video, and connect your smartphone by scanning in a QR code. Watch the example video below to find out more.

This isn’t the only example. Over the past six months, the IE team has also experimented with multi-screen scenarios with other partners. Nokia Music Mix Party allows numerous individuals to influence a music playlist together at a party through their phones, while DailyBurn uses a smartphone or tablet to control workouts playing on the television.

It’s certainly an intriguing idea, and today’s announcement is just the start of it. The Companion Web’s success will depend on the right companies embracing the idea, but there are lots of possibilities here. Imagine watching a program on your Xbox 360 or Xbox One, for example, firing up Twitter on your mobile phone and immediately seeing what other people are saying about it. Or going to Amazon and being offered box sets of earlier seasons. Who is that actor? Launch IMDB and browse the cast list that appears straightaway.

It’s not just about television of course. As Saftler says  "Companion Web means you’ll seamlessly move from one device to the next, interacting with your photos, videos, music, movies, television shows, files, and more".

What do you think of the idea? Long overdue or destined to fail?

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