Microsoft certainly wasn’t short on announcements earlier this week when it unveiled the Xbox One. It did, however, hold short of explaining deeper integration with its Windows Phone platform. While we were told that there will be continued Xbox SmartGlass support, Microsoft didn’t really expand on how it’s going to change. But it has to, SmartGlass is super limited right now and aside from offering control of the Xbox it’s relatively useless.
Microsoft is very likely indeed already working on a seamless approach to both platforms. “There’s some time between now and the delivery of Xbox One,” Microsfot’s senior marketing manager Greg Sullivan explained to PCMag. “Is there anything I can say? No. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing that’s being worked on… Are we where we’ll ultimately be? No, and we’ll continue to improve [Windows Phone].”
What can we expect? Here are a few scenarios I think could be really useful to end users, and ones that could certainly attract consumers to Windows Phone devices.
New Interactions with the TV
Microsoft has to, and I think it will, add additional controls to Windows Phone devices. The new Xbox supports Wi-Fi direct, which could potentially be used to usher content down to a smartphone’s display. You might be watching Xbox in your living room and then continue watching the content on your phone as you walk into another room, for example.
Or, while you’re watching TV, what if you could browse the Xbox Live TV Guide on your Windows Phone and control the Xbox? Wi-Fi direct could also add other features, such as “Send to Xbox” from a mobile device. You could have a family video from a recent vacation, for example, and send it to your big-screen TV right from the phone. What about music and photos? It’s all certainly possible. DLNA support enables this in some form on Android devices, but it’s still super clunky.
Achievements and Xbox Live mobile games are already available on the platform, but now there’s an opportunity for cross-platform gaming. The PS Vita allows you to pick up and continue playing PlayStation 3 games on the road –Microsoft should allow this on Windows Phone, too. What if you could start a game of FIFA 2014 on the Xbox One and then manage or play smaller parts of the game from your Windows Phone device?
Imagine a game like Bastion, for example, but with support for multiple players. One user could be playing at home on an Xbox while another could join in from a Windows Phone. Or what about simpler games, like Temple Run?
An Extra Controller
I don’t know if the demand is there, but imagine if you were able to use your Windows Phone as a basic controller for gaming. Head to your friend’s house to play a simple platform game, for example – what if you could pull out your phone, load an app and join in on the fun without having to bring your own controller? Obviously it would be too hard to add trigger controls and other features, but simple gaming should work just fine.
I think Microsoft was purposely mum on its mobile plans earlier this week because it will likely hold a separate event to discuss the next iteration of Windows Phone. I just hope the company isn’t too blind to realize that it has something Apple and Google don’t: an entire game and media console in the living room that’s far more powerful that Apple TV or Google TV. If it can leverage that for mobile, it has a real chance of boosting its market share in the smartphone space.