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Windows 8: a closer look at Xbox Live, Music and Videos (pictures and video)

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We've taken a look at the new Xbox Live, music, and video features in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Gallery Photo: Windows 8 Xbox Live, music, and video screenshots
Gallery Photo: Windows 8 Xbox Live, music, and video screenshots

Microsoft's entertainment strategy for Windows 8 appears to be closely aligned with its Xbox work. The software giant has included Music, Videos, and Xbox Live integration into Windows 8, alongside a powerful Xbox Live companion application. The Xbox Live hub in Windows 8 Consumer Preview allows users to get access to their friends list, recently played games, and avatar settings. Some of the preinstalled games in the Consumer Preview also include Xbox Live integration and you can also access these achievements in the main Xbox Live app.

The most interesting part of Microsoft's Xbox work on Windows 8 is undoubtedly its Xbox Live Companion application. The companion lets you launch Xbox 360 console games from a Windows 8 PC and also includes a feature that can stream video to an Xbox 360. There doesn't appear to be a way to stream audio just yet, but Microsoft is clearly starting to position Windows 8 and Xbox as a way to compete against Apple's AirPlay feature.

Music and Videos are the default applications for audio and videos within Windows 8. If you are in the desktop mode on Consumer Preview and attempt to launch an audio or video file then the Metro versions of the players handle playback. The applications are built by Microsoft's Xbox team, and include a similar interface to that of the Xbox Live app. Snapping to the side allows you to continue playing a video while you work in another Metro or desktop application. Like Microsoft's communications apps, these are basic Metro equivalents of the Windows Media Player and we expect to see greater integration with Microsoft's Zune pass service by launch later this year.

Be sure to read our complete hands-on of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview here.