Today at E3, Microsoft announced SmartGlass, a new app that will let any mobile device, including iPhones and iPads, provide secondary contextual content to what you're playing on your Xbox. Daniel Rubino and company from our sibling site WPCentral were on hand at the press conference, and brought back word of Microsoft demoing the system. It worked while watching Game of Thrones with world map information, as well as with Halo 4, where you could check match statistics and join multiplayer games from your tablet. Xbox will also be getting Internet Explorer (IE 10), which you'll be able to control from your mobile device.
It's a smart move on Microsoft's part to support the other mobile platforms, rather than keeping these sort of features exclusive to Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. There are a ton of iPad users out there that would love to get some better remote control and reference capabilities on their tablet, and though U.S. cable providers have tested the waters a bit, Xbox is a powerhouse in home digital entertainment, and as such will be able to deliver the experience to a much wider audience. I just hope that they don't lock this feature exclusively to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, as they do with really basic stuff like Xbox and Twitter apps.
I worry a little bit that the universal nature of SmartGlass suggests that it will be little more than a fancy website that you pull up in the browser, but so long as it stays properly in sync to what you're watching, it really shouldn't matter how the feature is delivered. The big question is, how much will something like SmartGlass overlap with an Apple TV and AirPlay? They didn't mention anything about device mirroring, which might be the clincher for some people, but for those that are primarily interested in streaming video content while having a bit of interplay with their iPad or iPhone, an Xbox might be a reasonable option that isn't that much more expensive.
SmartGlass is set to be launching this fall, so keep your eye out for it. Also, be sure to follow our boys at E3 for all of the big gaming announcements this week! A video of the demo is currently processing, so check back shortly!
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Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.