With its “SmartGlass” technology, Microsoft has proven that Nintendo can’t have all the fun when it comes to game console controllers with screens. While SmartGlass isn’t setting out to become a gaming solution in itself, it could offer some cool functionality in time if game developers wish to take advantage of it. For now, it’ll act as a simple Xbox 360 navigator.
At the forefront, SmartGlass allows you to access various functions of your Xbox 360 from a portable device, such as a Windows 8 phone or tablet, Android phone (tablet later, hopefully) and soon, iOS devices. You can navigate a UI similar to that on the console itself and peruse new content, configure your avatar, load apps and so forth. Unlike Nintendo, which will offer actual gameplay on its screen-equipped controllers, functionality with SmartGlass is very simple at the moment.
Over at ThePowerbase, Tom Nardi took Microsoft’s initial Android offering for a spin, and was left fairly impressed, but admits some fine-tuning needs to take place. After reading his “Annoyances” section, I can certainly agree. A perfect example of where things need to change is with media control. A highlight of SmartGlass is to allow you to control media, but once your Android device goes to sleep, it disconnects from the console. Want to pause that movie? Prepare for it to take up to 30 seconds, as the device will need to re-connect to the console.
An obvious solution would be to have the mobile device keep in constant connection with the Xbox 360, but retaining a wireless connection for a long period of time is hardly ideal (my phone depletes 40% of battery a day simply by idle wireless). However, some solution is needed, because a delay like that is a little extreme.
That said, SmartGlass has huge potential. If game developers began to take advantage of the functionality here and displayed game-related data on your mobile device, that’d be excellent – especially a tablet that you can keep near. I am not a big Xbox gamer, but I am looking forward to seeing where this goes, especially in comparison to the Wii U once that launches.