Microsoft plot 'gaming device network'
The latest revelation in from the US Patent & Trademark Office reveals that Microsoft are already busy plotting the expansion of their Xbox empire, having filed a number of patents related to their plans for the future.
The patent hints at a new console "system" that will lie at the heart of a gaming-media network, bringing together distributed computing between consoles and handheld devices (such as the Zune), which can share games, media and other functionality across a huge networks of gadgets.
A 'multi component gaming system' is the order of the day, according to the patent, which will work with PCs, media players, consoles, Pocket PCs, PDAs and more - with devices linked via LAN, Wi-Fi, USB Firewire et al. Once linked devices will share the same set of features and capabilities, sharing the individual abilities of components forming parts of the network. For example, a smartphone could be used to control a game while the audio is streamed via a networked Zune player - all using the console as a central 'hub'.
Microsoft offer a number of examples, this from Unwired View's assessment of the patent:
- console gaming device can be processing a game application provided by a handheld gaming device
- handheld gaming device can use the console gaming device’s spare memory to store results of previous games
- handheld device can comprise at least one flash memory compatible port and the console gaming device 44 can comprise at least one Universal Serial Bus (USB) compatible port.When combined, the flash memory compatible port(s) are available to the console gaming device 44 via its USB compatible port(s) thus increasing game console memory capacity
- one of the input/output ports of the console gaming device 42 can be coupled to a large screen display and another of the console gaming device’s 42 input/output ports can be coupled to a home theater audio system. Accordingly, the video and audio of a game being played on the handheld gaming device 40 can be rendered on the large screen display and the home theater system, respectively, via the console gaming device 42
- handheld gaming device 40 can comprise sound effects for displayed objects, but not-include Doppler for objects in motion. Another handheld gaming device 38 can comprise a library of Doppler sound effects for object in motion. When combined, one handheld gaming device 40 can download other handheld gaming device’s 38 Doppler sound effect library to enhance it’s sound effects.
- if console gaming device does not have enough power to process 3 pictures for Picture in Picture functionality, it can offload the processing for two pictures to the handheld gaming devices, therein utilizing the them as adjunct processors
- gaming components can provide updates and/or modifications to other gaming components in combination.
- non-gaming applications on a gaming component can be controlled by another gaming component in combination. For example, the handheld gaming device can be used to control music playback on the console gaming device.
The flexibility of the system is perhaps the most obvious upshoot of this patent filing, and it fits in to a certain extent with the direction in which Sony is moving with the PS3 - distributing computing tasks across networked consoles, while also bringing in extensively linked media centre capabilities. Given Microsoft's desire to gain a foothold across the spectrum of digital life, encompassing online purchasing, micro-transactions, DRM, game content, etc etc., this move to bring everything together in one movement is perhaps unsurprising from a strategic perspective.
We'll keep you posted on this development as we learn more.