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Xbox SmartGlass will improve Microsoft "multi-screen" strategy

Microsoft's Xbox SmartGlass could increase the company's reach... if developers support it, says Screen Digest analyst

While some are skeptical of the full scope of Microsoft's Xbox SmartGlass, Screen Digest analyst Piers Harding-Rolls believes that the app could increase the company's consumer reach. Harding-Rolls explains that SmartGlass could succeed where other initiatives have failed by supporting other platforms.

"The announcement confirms Xbox Live's role as Microsoft's core multi-screen entertainment platform with Xbox devices at the centre of this vision. This multi-OS support is an admission that Windows has so far failed to deliver in the smartphone and tablet arenas and it is clear that without support for competitive platforms that SmartGlass' impact would be significantly downplayed," says Harding-Rolls.

Harding-Rolls admits that Microsoft's new strategy could get hamstrung by Apple's control of its own platform. "Opening up SmartGlass to competitive platforms strengthens the consumer positioning of Xbox Live and Microsoft's existing and upcoming console platforms by providing engagement across a wider number of user cases," he says.

"The success of this strategy really rests on the extent of content that is enabled for access on non-Windows devices. IHS expects iOS devices to allow access to multi-screen content, but like other content services on the platform, all purchases would realistically need to take place through Xbox devices, unless Microsoft was willing to concede 30 per cent of its sales on iOS platforms to Apple. This factor will inevitably limit the potential of iOS devices as customer acquisition channels for Xbox Live content."

Harding-Rolls also acknowledges that Xbox SmartGlass could act as a spoiler for Nintendo's Wii U tablet, if publishers and developers provide it with enough support.

"While SmartGlass may play in the Wii U's competitive landscape, the fact is that enhanced games content offered on the second screen will rely on publishers and developer initiative, and unlike the Wii U, this will be entirely optional. With no definite addressable market, it is unlikely additional content will have the effectiveness of Nintendo's second screen offering for its new platform," he adds.

"Its positioning with regards to platform support is a fair reflection of how minimally entrenched Microsoft's products are with consumers in the smartphone and tablet device categories."

Xbox SmartGlass has an uphill battle in the market and Microsoft ensuring support for the app will determine if it's successful.

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