Will the future of the living room come to a Microsoft-Apple throwdown? It's certainly looking like it.
(Credit: James Martin)
Microsoft's SmartGlass app for tablets is fascinating, not just because it adds a second screen to the Xbox 360, but also because it's platform-agnostic; it'll work on Android or iPad, it seems, just as easily as on Windows. Add in Internet Explorer for the Xbox 360 and a bevy of new entertainment video apps, and it's pretty clear: the Xbox 360 is ready to take on Apple TV.
I guessed as much about Windows 8 on a next-gen Xbox several months ago, but it looks like Microsoft's essentially providing some of that Windows 8 experience without installing Windows 8. A smartphone or a tablet can control web browsing or second-screen entertainment in ways that seem reminiscent of how an iPad or iPhone can work with an Apple TV.
Add in the Kinect — which, in a lot of ways, functions like the much-rumoured Siri for Apple TV — and you have a platform that's ready to go as a very valid competitor. Heck, forget competitor: Apple's going to have to play a little catch-up.
I do have doubts as to second-screen content; Disney's Second Screen and HBO Go's enhanced interactivity for shows like Game of Thrones haven't been killer apps. But it depends on the content that comes down the pike.
This second-screen strategy also brings up the question: has Microsoft just stolen some of the thunder from the Wii U, the way that the Kinect stole thunder from the Wii's motion controls? And will 2012 turn out to be the Year of the Second Screen, after all?