SmartGlass Is Not Microsoft’s Wii U

After several months of almost complete silence, Microsoft has finally launched SmartGlass alongside Windows 8. SmartGlass is an app for W7/8 and Android phones (iPhone app to be coming soon) that allows users to interact with their Xbox with their PCs, tablets, and smart phones to navigate menus, browse the internet, and augment a video game. Having only just been announced during the middle of this year at E3, many have said that SmartGlass is Microsoft’s attempt to copy Nintendo’s Wii U (which was announced over a year ago), much like how the Kinect was Microsoft’s retaliation to the Wii. Well, I’m here to say that SmartGlass is NOT simply a copy of Wii U and has been in Microsoft’s plans long before Nintendo first showed off the Wii U controller.

Way back when, during the olden days of 2009, Ray Ozzie (former Microsoft Chief Software Architect) talked about Microsoft’s vision of “three screens and a cloud” at tech convention and an interview with JP Morgan. He talked about how people in the future would rely less on a single device for their content creation and entertainment consumption and would instead store and process everything in the internet (cloud) and just use multiple devices (three screens; PC [now tablet]), TV, and smart phone) to interact with each other and access that content from anywhere at anytime. SmartGlass is a program for computers (tablets) and phones to interact with their Xbox or consume media content from your Microsoft account. It’s not as functional as what Ray was talking about, but it is a foundation for Microsoft to work and build upon to get them closer to that goal.

Eons later, during the middle of the 2012 year, a presentation document was leaked to the internet. The document was said to be from 2010 and was intended for an internal Microsoft meeting talking largely about the company’s plans for the upcoming Xbox successor and their plans for the few years after it.

Now let me take a moment to silence the nay-sayers and tell you that the document was legitimate. It leaked the Surface (though not by name) before Microsoft announced it and talked of using a foundation of Windows 8 for all of their products (720 included) before that had likewise been announced. It even talked about moving toward streaming games and bypassing hardware limitations, which was later confirmed when Microsoft partnered with the streaming company Agawi to bring console and PC quality games to W8 tablets and WP8 phones. If none of that convinces you, then how about Microsoft issuing a take down order to every site that had the document, citing copyright infringement and illegally possessing Microsoft property? If you didn’t catch that, Microsoft said that the document was legitimate. So now that we’ve got that settled…

In that document Microsoft went it to detail describing an app for phones, tablets, and PCs that would allow users to interact with their Xbox to interact with a game, view video content, provide supplemental information for both games and video content, listen to music…pretty much everything SmartGlass has been advertised to do. It also stated that the features (now known as SmartGlass) would launch late 2012, which it has.

Now let’s look at the timeline: In 2009 Ray Ozzie spoke about having multiple devices interact with each other to enhance experiences, in 2010 Microsoft was discussing literally every feature shown off by SmartGlass, in 2011 Nintendo debuts the Wii U with a faux-tablet controller, and Microsoft announces and launches Smart Glass in 2012. If I read that right, it means that Microsoft was concocting SmartGlass at least two years prior to the first announcement of the Wii U! So can anyone explain to me how a feature that has been in development for over three years is a response to a feature that was announced barely a year ago? Well, you can’t. SmartGlass is not a response to the Wii U; Nintendo just happened to talk about something similar before Microsoft let the public in on their secret software.

  1. I really like the idea of Smart Glass. I hope it makes its way to the Kindle Fire HD eventually… though I imagine they’re not going to make it easy for Surface competitors…. It took the Xbox app forever just to get to iOS (still no Kindle version).

    • Well MS seems to have accepted the fact that they need the cooperation of Apple’s and Google’s ecosystems in order to make any sort of mobile app truly work and I think they’ll be supporting SmartGlass across the big three OS’s. However, they will end up bringing some Xbox-centric features outside of SmartGlass to only W8 devices, such as the partnership with Agawi to stream Xbox games to phones and tablets. Is the Kindle Fire HD running Android 4.0 or higher? Only 4.0 or above devices will be compatible, but it’s still very device-by-device so far because of Google virtually making no rules on what OEMs can do to the OS. The Kindle technically runs Android, but Amazon has made so many changes to the OS that during their big event last month they referred to it as “our operating system” and not Android. So you may just end up SOL in that regards.

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