Microsoft's Xbox SmartGlass is the right idea

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: June 5, 2012

 

It may seem strange, but there are some people out there who live their lives around conferences and events. They probably wouldn’t admit it out loud (maybe some would), but for those who find themselves in particular industries, the events are what add some spice to the daily drive. As I’m sure you’ve heard in some fashion or another, this week is E3, which means that the news is filled with some taste of video games in one way or another. It makes it easier when companies like Microsoft are trying hard to make sure that their experience isn’t just about video games, but about an expanded experience as a whole. It also helps when they target a device that I think is perfectly suited to their needs, and flesh it out as much as they can.

Right now, Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass is still new. Super new. So new, in fact, that it hasn’t even been publicly launched yet. Microsoft announced it early yesterday, and the response was pretty unanimous: it’s a huge step in the right direction.

For those of you who missed the announcement, Xbox SmartGlass is a a new AirPlay-like feature that allows you to control content on your Xbox 360 with another device. You can also swap content on devices, beginning on your tablet, going to the Xbox 360, and then continuing on your PC. During the announcement, Microsoft was confident in pointing out that Xbox SmartGlass was an experience you could have on the devices you already own, even if that’s not a Windows device.

Yes, Xbox SmartGlass will work on your iPad, iPhone, or Android-based smartphone and tablet. It’s designed to work on what you own, instead of you having to go buy something else just to use it. It’s a great move, to say the least.

Cross-platform functionality is absolutely the right move for Microsoft. I have actually touched on both of these things in the past, in regards to Xbox LIVE and Zune, because it’s the right move for Microsoft to make. There is no denying that other platforms are popular, and while Microsoft would love for Windows Phone to be just as popular, it just isn’t the case right now. So, offering up services that still make use of Microsoft’s services and platforms makes sense.

But, Microsoft’s big move in Xbox SmartGlass isn’t just the fact that it’s cross-platform, it’s the fact that it plays right against Apple. Apple’s AirPlay feature, as you know, is strictly for iOS-based devices, including Apple TV. There isn’t any cross-platform goodness happening there, which means that it’s ultimately limited right out of the box. Now, some would argue that those who have an AppleTV are obviously dug into the Apple ecosystem, so being “limited” isn’t a big deal.

What about new customers? What about people who haven’t jumped into that wagon yet? Specifically, what about a household that has many different people in it, all with different devices? What if someone in the house doesn’t like iOS and has an Android handset, or a Windows Phone? What then? No luck, not natively. Maybe not even through an application.

That’s where Microsoft comes swooping in, and bam, you’ve got options. You’ve got support, you just need the Xbox 360. And obviously the console itself isn’t billed as just a gaming device anymore, so convincing someone that having an Xbox 360 in the house may not be all that difficult anymore, even for a family that doesn’t play video games.

Xbox SmartGlass is a huge step in the right direction, and let’s hope Microsoft is fully aware of this and capitalizes on it. This is something that tablets were meant for, in my opinion, as a secondary device, and I think Microsoft is on the right track.

What do you think of Xbox SmartGlass? Are you looking forward to it? Have you any interest in it at all? Let me know!