Let's talk about mobile gaming. If you play on iOS you probably use Gamecenter to keep in touch with friends. But what if your friend has an Android phone? S/he might use Google Play Games for the same purpose, but there's no way to reach across platforms, unless you happen to be playing one of the rare cross-platform games.
There's not much chance of Apple porting GameCenter to Android, or Google releasing an iOS version of Google Play Games. Microsoft sees this as an opportunity and the company wants to bring Xbox Live to both iOS and Android.
The Verge turned up a listing (since removed) on Microsoft's Careers site. It said in part "We will create a modern framework that is open-source, lightweight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Later CNET said:
These plans were later confirmed to be part of a larger effort to use Xbox Live to reinvigorate social gaming on mobile, which is currently hampered by locked-in, platform-specific networks like Apple's Game Center.>
It's easy to crack a joke about this (check the comments on The Verge) as Xbox Live is a service seen as kind of thuggish to some people, mostly because Microsoft expects you to pay for Xbox Live Gold in order to access things like Netflix on their game consoles.
But in a broader sense, it'd be nice if someone could offer a unified, cross-platform friend list that could integrate with mobile games. Steam has a mobile app, of course, but it is stand-alone.
Microsoft has dabbled in this space already. Microsoft's Wordament is available on iTunes and Google Play and it used Xbox Live for it's leaderboards, though it doesn't have a way to chat with friends (or didn't the last time I played). Wordament does support Achievements (here's a list) and I'd expect any future Xbox Live games on iOS and Android to support them as well. If you're the kind of person who is always chasing Gamerscore, imagine being able to pick up a few points while you're in line at the grocery store.
The problem is that as things currently stand, implementing Xbox Live on mobile "requires intensive conversation with Microsoft" according to CNET. Microsoft wants to create an open source system that makes it easy to add Xbox Live support to your app (though it seems to me that someone from Microsoft would have to approve any Achievements an app would support). Which brings us back to the job listing, which makes it sound like it's early days for the initiative, but maybe we'll hear something at E3?
Anyway as a long-term Xbox Live member, I'm a fan of this idea and I hope Microsoft can pull it off. Anyone else out there intrigued by the idea?
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.