E3: Microsoft ‘SmartGlass’ trademark filing hints at bigger ambitions for Xbox

[Follow-up: Microsoft unveils Xbox SmartGlass, Xbox Music, IE for Xbox, and Nike+ Kinect]

It’s going to be a big week for anyone who cares about video games, with the E3 convention happening in Los Angeles. And one of the biggest rumors to emerge so far is a juicy one involving Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.

The report from Examiner.com is that Microsoft “will be revealing the Xbox Smart Glass tablet behind closed doors” at the show.

According to the report, this “tablet” will let users control the Xbox 360; it will work across Windows, Windows Phone, Android and iOS”; it will stream content to TV sets, computers and devices; and it will offer access to apps including video-streaming services Netflix and YouTube.

Engadget likens it to Apple’s AirPlay. The Examiner report says it’s “a giant step for Microsoft, a company that has stayed out of the tablet business for the most part.”

People who have been around the broader tech industry for a while will get a chuckle out of that last line. Microsoft attempted — unsuccessfully — to create a tablet market around Windows XP back in the day, a decade before the iPad came along. So yes, it’s true, the Redmond company has stayed out of the tablet business for the most part, but not voluntarily.

At any rate, here’s my contribution: I did a little searching through U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records this afternoon, after seeing the report, and sure enough, back on Jan. 26 of this year, Microsoft quietly applied for a trademark on the word “SmartGlass.”

The trademark application describes SmartGlass as “computer hardware and software for phones, mobile devices, televisions, video game consoles, media players and audiovisual devices.”

Computer “hardware and software.” Very intriguing. Combined with a bunch of “SmartGlass” domain registrations by Microsoft, there’s clearly something happening here. The precise details of these types of rumors aren’t always on the mark, but there’s a lot of interesting potential.

Microsoft could be in a position to leverage the Xbox 360′s large installed base — with more than 66 million consoles sold — to give itself an even bigger role in the living room and on devices, simultaneously creating a third act for the Xbox 360 (if the Kinect is considered a second act).

It’s easy to criticize Microsoft’s consumer products these days, but the Xbox brand gives the company an enviable presence in the living room. This is no “hobby” for the Redmond company.

Whether the Examiner report is accurate in describing SmartGlass as a “tablet” remains to be seen.

Keep in mind that Nintendo will use E3 in part to tout the upcoming Wii U, with a proprietary tablet as a controller. Microsoft already makes an Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone, giving people control of their consoles from their Microsoft-powered devices.

But there’s a potential for the Xbox 360 team to go further and try to upstage Nintendo with deep device integration of its own. Remember this concept video that Microsoft showed a while back? Isn’t it about time to release this product?

Imagine if it were cross-platform — available on iPhone, iPad and Android in addition to Windows and Windows Phone.

Bottom line, this “SmartGlass” stuff officially has our attention. The suspense won’t last long. Microsoft’s E3 event will be live streamed here on starting at 9:30 a.m. Pacific on Monday morning. The stream will be hosted on a special Microsoft domain called “E3Companion.com.”

Companion. Coincidence?

  • Guest

    Looks very cool! I can’t wait for E3 to start.

  • http://twitter.com/manan Manan Kakkar

    I wrote about the trademark back in Jan, at that time I did some digging around and till then smart glass was *just* a product within the glass industry that could switch states which sounded pretty cool. Looks like that wasn’t what they were planning.

  • Guest

    From what I’ve read this is a software solution, not a tablet per se. MS’s answer to iOS’s “mirroring”. Sad that MS is always playing catch up.

  • Guest

    “So yes, it’s true, the Redmond company has stayed out of the tablet business for the most part, but not voluntarily.”

    A true statement is they helped pioneer the category, led it for 7 or so years during which time tablets never became mainstream, then lost it to iPad which did, and have subsequently and voluntarily pretty much stayed out of tablets waiting for W8  (for reasons that made no competitive sense whatsoever and have probably ensured the company’s decline).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JQ3PYNGUJNCBKZ4IZBXJI773VQ Jim

    MS should now put tons of money into vr glasses for use with the xbox and pc.  Thats the next step not tablets sorry.  I wouldn’t waste my money on a tablet when I can buy a much more powerful laptop that does so much more for less. So its smaller and lighter big deal I want the screen larger not smaller.  Sony is getting closer with its headset but its not there yet.  The first affordable headset that produces HD quality video and can be used across platforms will be huge.  Thats where I would put my money and research.

    • Guest

      59M iPad buyers disagree with you. But I agree that MS needs to be what’s next. It’s already lost what is.