Living up to rumors, Microsoft continued its incremental project of turning the Xbox 360 into the center of a person’s daily entertainment habits. Getting the jump on Apple’s plans for expanding its Cloud service and possibly releasing a television, Microsoft announced a series of new entertainment services for 360 that will connect it with smartphones, and tablets.
The Smart Glass app will allow players an alternate window for information when playing games or watching television. In one example, a person was shown watching Game of Thrones while their tablet showed where on the world map the scene was taking place. Another example was shown with Halo 4 where a player was going through a story level and an invitation to play multiplayer popped up on the tablet. The player accepted the invitation on the tablet and the game automatically saved, quit the story level and loaded the multiplayer map.
The new Xbox dashboard will also have a deeper integration with Windows phones and tablets. You could begin watching a movie or television show on a tablet and then resume watching where you left off on your 360. Microsoft announced a new streaming music service called Xbox Music, which will offer the same level of functionality across tablets, Windows phones, and the 360. According to some reports, Microsoft has said Smart Glass will also work on iOS and Android devices.
Microsoft also announced Nike Plus Kinect Training, a personal fitness application that offers various training routines and fitness targets through a Kinect-driven 360 game, that connects more broadly using Nike’s FuelBand product, an electronic wristband that charts a persons track times, calories burned, and steps taken daily. With Kinect Training integration the person will be able to sync exercise data from their daily routines and use the 360 as a central hub for tracking progress and tweaking new results.
The fleet of announcements pose an interesting question for tomorrow’s Nintendo conference, where the Wii U’s tablet-centric controller will be a main focus. For decades one of the central appeals of game consoles was that they existed in a separate sphere from the multi-purpose computers. They were a kind of commodified version of the famed magic circle.
As tablets and smart phones and internet-based entertainment distribution continues to push toward a new kind of convergence, will there still be a market for a privileged game-only space where one is free from the intrusion of other media and functionality? It’s an open question and if today’s Microsoft media briefing was an argument for the all-inclusive media hub that connects across phones and tablets, perhaps Nintendo’s conference tomorrow will offer the counter-argument for a game system that maintains the playful filtering of the magic circle.