Let's start with Microsoft's promotional video:
Microsoft's Major Nelson introduces the features of the app:
Using the Xbox Companion app you can learn more details about the movie, TV show, music or game that is playing on your console. You can also get friend activity (friends online, friends with beacons, friends who have recently played), achievements and related items. You’ll also be able to select a search result, and launch a movie, TV show, game or app on the connected console as well as play, pause, fw, rw the playing video or music on the connected Xbox, initiate media purchase and navigate your Xbox console with Windows Phone using the Xbox Companion.
This is an app that has long been trailed, and given push by Microsoft to connect up the three major screens at home (phone, tv and deskbound computer) - providing applications, links and synergy between them is a natural progression.
What's more interesting to me is the second Xbox connectivity app that was released, namely for iOS devices. My Xbox Live is a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch which you can download from iTunes. Rather than the remote control-esque companion app Windows Phone users can get their hands on, the iOS version duplicates the Xbox Live hub of Windows Phone, letting you chat to your friends, watch and compare achievements, and edit your avatar and profile.
Now this makes it interesting. It's drawing a clear line in the sand - Windows Phone is going to work with iOS. We might see an Android version at a later date, but by going to iOS first it appears that Microsoft has chosen sides in the Android/iOS discussion. It will be interesting to see what gets developed next: an Android app? A full media controller for iOS? Or will this be it?
For now, this is a smart move for Windows Phone. It pushes the connected strategy, and it exposes more people to the new interface of Windows Phone. I think giving iOS users a sneaky look at Metro UI is the smartest move in all of this. Daring Fireball's John Gruber:
What I find interesting is that on the iPhone and iPad, it doesn’t feel wrong to see an app using the Metro UI... I think it has something to do with every app being full-screen and immersive on iOS. Also: the fact that Metro is nice.
Someone in Redmond should get that on a T-Shirt... "John Gruber says Metro is nice."