Microsoft has emphasized that Windows 8 is all about creating a seamless experience across platforms. However, tablets, smartphones and PCs aren’t the only devices getting this unified experience, as the company has announced the release date for its SmartGlass app.
SmartGlass, which was announced this past June at E3 2012, will roll out with Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet on Friday. The Microsoft-branded app will tie together all Xbox content with tablets, PCs and phones, and will launch for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices before expanding to iOS and Android platforms.
The SmartGlass app essentially transforms any mobile device into a second screen for the Xbox 360.
“Your phone and tablet will become the best remote controls in your house,” Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division wrote in a blog on Monday. “Use the touch screen on your smartphone or tablet to control your Xbox 360, and use your devices to pause, rewind or advance entertainment.”
The app will allow users to start watching a television show or a movie on a tablet and pick up at the same point on their Xbox 360. For gaming, the SmartGlass app will act as an accessory to gameplay. For example, players can queue up their next song in a game such as “Dance Central 3” or use their phone as a GPS in driving-based games. SmartGlass will support a number of apps at launch including ESPN, HBO GO and more, Microsoft said.
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SmartGlass appears to boast some noteworthy features that are sure to please avid gamers and movie fanatics. However, considering iOS and Android handsets tend to be the smartphone of choice in the mobile market, Microsoft may have a hard time reaching a wide audience.
“I—along with most people—will be unable to try it out this week because it inexplicably and unforgivably lacks support for iOS or Android right out of the gate,” writes Chris Pereira of gaming news website 1UP.
This means that if Xbox players plan on using SmartGlass anytime soon, they will have to run out and get their hands on Microsoft’s Surface tablet or a Windows Phone 8 device.
According to a study from website design company Go-Gulf published earlier this year, Android owns the market share, claiming a whopping 46.9 percent of all smartphone users worldwide. Apple’s iPhone comes in second with 28.7 percent of the global smartphone market share. Microsoft, however, nearly came in last place with only 5.2 percent of user operating on a Windows Phone handset. RIM users accounted for 16.6 percent, and Symbian was the least popular mobile operating system at 1.5 percent.
While Microsoft may have a long way to go in order to catch up with the competition, releasing exclusive apps such as SmartGlass may attract more attention to their platform. In terms of developing a Windows Phone 8 following , SmartGlass could be a clever selling point. It provides the pick-up-where-you-left-off aspect that Apple plans to offer in its refreshed iTunes 11, but also contain features specific to gamers. However, when it comes to the individual app’s success, it will be difficult to gain traction if it is only available to such a closed audience.
The Windows Store just saw its grand opening on Thursday as it just crossed the 125,000 app threshold. This is still significantly less than Apple’s iOS store, which boasts more than 700,000 apps, but it is more than any other platform had at launch, Microsoft said.
SmartGlass will debut alongside Windows 8 and the Surface tablet on Friday, but Microsoft will be holding a separate event to introduce its Windows Phone 8 devices to the world.