Microsoft's SmartGlass Seems Legit, But It's No Wii U Controller

E3 2012: Microsoft's SmartGlass software turns your mobile device into a touch-screen remote for the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, it's not ideal for gaming.

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Microsoft is ever searching for ways to legitimize the Xbox 360 as more than a gaming console. Its latest announcement, SmartGlass, integrates your console with a phone or tablet with the Xbox 360 as a wireless remote and secondary monitor. It lives on mobile devices as an app, and Microsoft is touting that your "intelligent companion" will turn any TV into a Smart TV, essentially allowing you to access Web content from your couch. For some, this will prove to be a valuable tool in their media arsenal, but the gaming-centric crowd might not benefit as much as Microsoft hopes. Then again, based on its presentation, that may have been its plan all along.

It's natural to draw comparisons to the Wii U's GamePad, but there are drastic differences. Firstly, the Wii U uses the touch-screen controller as its primary means of input, negating the need to juggle devices. Take the Madden SmartGlass demo during the presentation--you pick up a tablet to choose a play, you put down the tablet and pick up your controller to execute the chosen play, and then pick up the tablet to restart the whole process again. That sounds like an unbelievable pain in the ass that gets in the way of the task at hand: gaming.

It's unlikely that developers will be wooed into making SmartGlass-only games as the hardware it lives on can vary greatly between users. We'll see support for SmartGlass within games, but it will likely remain optional, lest Microsoft alienate customers who don't already own a mobile device. Wii U games on the other hand are being designed with the ability to take advantage of this tech from the get-go on a standardized controller, solving all of the aforementioned problems present in SmartGlass as a means of controlling games.

Once the Wii U gets off the ground, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft tries to make a move on its territory. Microsoft can sit back and watch Nintendo struggle through the growing pains of the Wii U and learn from its inevitable mistakes, without the risk of developing a new console with an unheard-of control scheme. When the right idea comes along, you can be sure Microsoft will do its best to capitalize on the concept and make it its own. If it does make a significant move into SmartGlass gaming territory post Wii U launch, that would create an interesting dynamic between the two companies.

Without any mention of additional costs associated with SmartGlass, it seems that people who own an Xbox and a smartphone/tablet can take advantage of these features next fall. It won't necessarily revolutionize gaming, and Microsoft likely won't make a dollar off the app, but it's a valuable asset for its portfolio. It has done a good job of building up the media capabilities of the Xbox 360 since its release, and SmartGlass serves these existing capabilities in an innovative way. In that realm, it's a great, if not long overdue, development.

Discussion

40 comments
eLiNeS911
eLiNeS911

@doc_brown Regarding what you said here... “You pick up a tablet to choose a play, you put down the tablet and pick up your controller to execute the chosen play, and then pick up the tablet to restart the whole process again. That sounds like an unbelievable pain in the ass that gets in the way of the task at hand: gaming.” You might want to go back and watch the Madden demo again. See at around 3:54 of the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_E2vRrPVBA. They never show putting down the tablet and picking up a controller to perform the play just created. Everything was done on the tablet.

 

I look forward to you changing your opinion and the title of this article...

BillyColeman
BillyColeman

mrfuz24 oh shut up about everybody is copying of nintendo how is that? did nintendo make the touchpads????? i think not so yes think a lil bit

Zaika
Zaika

Well a little versatility  doesn't hurt right?

mrfuz24
mrfuz24

this years e3 truly is dissapointing everybody is copying of nintendo AGAIN, except this time the whole idea of a pad or phone as a game just sucks , like they have apps, thats what they were meant for not gaming, i would much rather see some originality, not the same thing over, and over 

chyng85
chyng85

MS is getting expert in gaming development.

NextWednesday
NextWednesday

The Microsoft news conference and, specifically, their smart glass presentation seemed to me to be a counterpoint developed over the past year to combat the novelty of the WiiU's touchscreen controller. It has me interested. It seems to have almost the exact same functionality of the WiiU's controller. That "put it down pick it up" nonsense is exactly that, nonsense. what's the problem with having your iPad or Kindle fire on your lap, Peter?

One problem I can foresee is that because it isn't a first party device, but an app, will there be a lag between inputs on the tablet/smartphone and their corresponding in-game effects?

 

The Sony news conference seemed to have a solution. The Vita is simultaneously a possible controller in the style of the WiiU tablet, as well as a portable game device. This seems to be the best solution.

 

The Nintendo news conference just obliterated any interest I had in the WiiU, if not the handheld screen idea entirely. The controller seems to have no advantages whatsoever over the SmartGlass system or the Vita, and the content they showed was NONEXISTENT. Luigi PacMan, seriously? ZombiU? Why do you need the peripheral for that game at all? It seemed like the Nintendo head-honchos saw (almost three years ago) that the Wii was becoming quickly outdated and thought to themselves, "What's a new gimmick that will push consoles out the door?" without thinking things through.

 

Without new consoles from Sony and Microsoft at the event, the future of core console gaming is looking bleak. I wish I had the cashflow for a PC.

grizzmoe
grizzmoe

i like the idea because its optional and you dont have to buy a new system or control it uses twhat you already have, me im just fine witha regular control only with my games but its cool to have the option with no exta money outta pocket

the_requiem
the_requiem

This article is perfect example of how brainless these so called "journalists" are. It's no Wii U controller,  it is better. Why? Coz it is an APP, software, not some piece of hardware. I am sure lots of third parties will be interested in using Smart Glass to come up with their own enahnced versions of X360 controller. Heck, dont be surprised if "Smart Glass enabled controllers" become the next gold standard for Enhance/Ultimate/Collector's Editions. You're a gaming journalist, expand your mind. Think of what things can be, now what they are. You, Mr. Peter Brown, are a disgrace to gamers everywhere. But then, why am I not surprised. You do call yourself as "grew up on NES and unwavering love for retro and arcade games". That sounds like a Nintendo fanboy and someone who loves to live in the past.

 

And before anyone jumps on me, I've never owned an MS hardware, but even I can see how Smart Glass is even better than Wii U and PS Vita combined.

javalino
javalino

Hope MS release the software only for IOS and windows phone phone/tablets. I will love see the android fanboys flame the net.

Savoritias
Savoritias

that is why I like ps. It is a console first not entertainment system.

alext_b
alext_b

Xbox has become more of an entertainment device than a gaming console. This year's conference simply proves it. Microsoft's focus now is on making the console appealing to the mass market and they're neglecting gamers as a result.A PC makes a MUCH better all round device.

Cleave83
Cleave83

Very good idea at least as far as the browser support goes but do we really need another reason for people to not look at the screen when they're watching something?

lj4dog
lj4dog

I don't like nether, as a gamer i don't taking my eyes off what i'm playing to look at something or have to pause the game to do it. 

 

Plus I got a 65inch TV why would i want to take my eyes off that to look at a 12inch tablet or 5inch phone. Tell I see how this can help gameplay, I could care less. Maybe I'm missing something, someone enlighten me?

Foppe
Foppe

It's not a Wii U controller?

MIND=BLOWN!

damo320
damo320

Its not trying to be the Wii U. I think having a smart remote with additional content feeds is clever and will add something to gameplay and the overall user experience.

MVan86
MVan86

Seems like a bet each way for Microsoft - not letting the Wii U leave them in the dust but at the same time not hitching their wagon to a new and unproven concept.

mike300zxt
mike300zxt

Love it!  I love my xbox for games, but I also use it for movies & TV.  I can see so many creative uses for SmartGlass...more related to TV shows than games...I.e. interactive shows/games/polls/comments.  I love that it will work with my iPhone too...smart move!  I hope they don't treat it as just a remote control, but also let content share and sync better between the xbox/phone/PC.

Iamshmee
Iamshmee

The WiiU tablet is probably one of the lamest controllers ever developed in gaming. Nintendo needs to get out of the console market and focus on what they're good at, handhelds. The smart glass thing seems pretty lame and gimmicky, but hey if I can use my android phone like a mouse and go on the internet, that's pretty neat. Don't have to buy some stupid peripheral or an entirely new console, so what the heck! Can't beat free!

moviequest14
moviequest14

So I suppose if I made a sarcastic comment about this new idea I would be a ............ smartglass? xD

moviequest14
moviequest14

This is what happens when MS tried to throw together a half-ass attempt at the last minute to provide ''competition'' for wii-u.Kinect shows just how much potential Microsoft can provide , a new spin on motion controls that isn't a direct rip-off of their ''inspiration'' so to speak. Please Microsoft , leave it at a tech demo.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I would be very difficult for MS to use Smart Glass for gaming. The current tablets are not standardize or optimized for gaming. Sony, Samsung, Blackberry, Kindle fire, and The ipad are very different. So having developers make tablet enable games control well with Xbox 360 would be very difficult. Smartglass has a ways to go before it can be used for playing videogames using a tablet as controller since they are all different. Unless if Microsoft were to create it's own tablet. Which I cannot see them doing.

xchiefmegadethx
xchiefmegadethx

Can't wait to use smartglass.i have a iPad iPhone so this is perfect for me! Looks like I'm going to use this feature a lot. Did not want to have to buy a windows tab, so happy I don't need too. Also Making plays in madden with tab,can be great,just have the tab in ur lap, make the plays with 1 hand tap tap slide! Then take control of ur 360 controller.or have ur iPad set up on ur table with a stand. So u can. Make plays without have to pick up tab. So many ways this can be handy for gaming. Then u can use it as a mouse for the new browser,which sounds really cool.plus voice commands with kinect. and all the other things u can use it for. No doubt 360 is leader for interactive features and best way to watch movies tv music and all those other apps.lol can't wait for smartglass it sounds great. Also can't wait for NHL app the twitch app for 360.

dogman7
dogman7

I don't think it's meant to be used for gaming, they're just showing off its potential. At least that's how I see it.

nimmow
nimmow

Yay just what I didn't ask for, pain in the ass game interfacing much like the Kinect. Microsoft are showing a pattern here I wonder what's next, pelvis thrusting interfacing anyone?

gets0410
gets0410

 @BillyColeman  Uhh... No Nintendo didn't invent touchpads if that's what you're asking. The answer is: No.But obviously, that "Smartglass" is like a cheapshot.. a way of copying the Wii U's tablet-like controller, because if people likes it, well great. If NOT, well... B*tch please... not a problem, it's just an app anyway.

cephas90
cephas90

 @NextWednesday You can build a die hard system for under a grand if you choose your parts wisely.  I built my system for around 600 bucks (i already had my video card and peripherals however).  If you can get past the initial expenses it's really not that bad.  But like I said, the "easier" route (prebuilt) is a lot steeper monetarily speaking.

Minasodrom
Minasodrom

@the_requiem one thing is true though, its not the primary controller and since its not mandatory games will have smart-glass-features of the horizon of kinect features. still awesome though! hope xbox streaming to the tabloid will be possible so i can play while taking a dump. controller would have to be connected on xbox though!

cephas90
cephas90

 @javalino You do realize this statement makes you an Apple fanboy, right?

colt_a
colt_a

 @javalino Microsoft would be more likely to leave out Apple and make it Android/Windows only, as Apple is their primary competitor in everything.  Apple also charges for making FREE APPS on their devices.  The other two platforms are completely free to develop for.

colt_a
colt_a

 @Savoritias That's why the PS3's has half the number of games as the 360 and is ridicously hard to develop for in comparison to the rest of the consoles.  Because they had a gaming first mentality.....I'm not saying one or the other is better.  I have all consoles + PC.  But these type of comments only spark a stupid flame war that makes no sense.  ALL Consoles are in it to be an entertainment system.  They want to appeal to entire families because its a steep investment (especially when they get their next gen stuff out) and in this economy its hard to justify spending 600 dollars for something only little Timmy will use.

colt_a
colt_a

 @alext_b While I like PC the best, as long as their are any good console exclusives (they are dwindling though) we have to accept that consoles are a full entertainment system now as they are trying to appeal to entire families who are on smaller budgets than ever.

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

 @moviequest14 I don't think this is aimed at the Wii U at all... Seems to me that they are trying to target Apples market more than Nintendo's.

Iamshmee
Iamshmee

 @Megavideogamer But they do have Windows 7 software for Tablets. Besides the Xbox line, Microsoft doesn't really create hardware, they create software. I imagine they could optimize a software for the current gen of tablets. Also it's supposed to span all the operating systems, but the requirements need to be released. I bet my crappy Optimus S with sprint won't be able to work with it, but my contract is ending soon enough.

the_requiem
the_requiem

 @dogman7 I think it is meant to be used for gaming. Think of a third party X360 controller with touch screen that uses Smart Glass. There is a reason Smart Glass is a piece of software, not hardware. With this, MS can do what WiiU can do, and much more.

eyeball2452
eyeball2452

 @nimmow This made me laugh.  There are a lot of negative things you can say about Kinect.  Ease of use isn't one of them.

 

As for the article, I'm not really sure what the WiiU controller can and can't do.  It might be jumping the gun to say SmartGlass couldn't eventually do what the WiiU controller will be able to do.  Also, if the WiiU touchpad is the main source of input, Nintendo has already failed the the next generation of games. 

 

The SmartGlass demo showed the Game of Thrones map synced with the show.  The demo also showed the SmartGlass app on the phone being used to control the web browsing experience.  Why couldn't it be integrated into a game like the WiiU touchpad?  Maybe, if for some reason you wanted to, let you use your tablet as the main input device for a game ... who knows.

 

 

BillyColeman
BillyColeman

 @gets0410 did you read what thay were saying??? prob not and who cares if its a cheapshot the wii U is a cheap shot to i pads and the move is a cheap shot too the wii mote welcome to the real world.

barrypearson
barrypearson

 @colt_a Actually Apple only charge to be a developer and not per app for free apps.  Since Microsoft already develop apps for iOS, Messenger and OneNote for example, no more money is heading Apple's way.  It would also be a poor choice to discount the largest selling single tablet and phone available.

Savoritias
Savoritias

 @colt_a first ps3 has far more games. The difference is xbox has indie games. Next ps3 gave you all at one price not blu ray, hard disk and wireless extra.

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

 @eyeball2452 How so? Many developers don't seem to have a problem with it since it offers standard buttons with an extra screen. This also means their new traditional controller will be more usable than it was on the Wii. Plus it is actually stand alone this time no plug in bull ****.

moviequest14
moviequest14

 @eyeball2452 I haven't seen it been used but ... the ''figure feature'' (placing a figure or card and playing that character or powerup in game)? Even if the tablet does come to do everything the gamepad (wii-u) can do (which I doubt as the ipad would have to be able to support full xbox360 gameplay while the tv is changed like wii-u which I don't think i____ is equipped power-wise to do yet at all , except through steam which is completely different ) you also have to ask if it would actually be used as much. Developers would be able to focus on the wii-u gamepad at the same time they are developing with the game , it is second nature , but the smartglass requires individual development time , my guess is that it will be used about as much (if not less) than the gamecube controller's been controlled with wii (maybe....a dozen games at best?).