Integrating mobile with other platforms, devices

Twin Engine Labs

Ken and Keith Hanson

The tablet market is booming, with brands such as Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Asus contributing to studies that predict tablets to surpass smartphones in mobile internet usage by 2013. When Apple says it has created a sleek, new device, consumers run to their nearest electronic store and ask "where?" As developers, our first question when any new technology emerges is "How can we leverage this innovative device for original creations?" With recent announcements at corporate conferences such as Apple's WWDC and Google I/O, we're trying to anticipate what we can create with new tablet technology. Some themes that we are specifically noticing across tablet manufacturers include deeper social integration, integration with console and PC gaming and, what we like to call, "the new living room experience".

Deeper Social Integration

After years of being at odds, Apple and Facebook announced in June that they are going to work together with the new Facebook integration in iOS 6. The new setup lets Facebook users post content directly to their accounts via Siri without opening the Facebook app, integrates Facebook events with the iOS Calendar, and enables users to "like" apps, TV shows, and movies from the App store to which appear on Facebook feeds in real-time.

This social integration is a huge benefit to app discoverability. Developers will be able to tailor apps with a tie to Facebook, increasing the likelihood of downloads and growing a user base from those who find the app via a friend's news feed. Furthermore, this integration will give developers an edge over competitors who aren't creating apps for iOS 6.

Beyond iOS 6, we foresee even more social networks being added with the way that Apple is abstracting their credentials API. Since all of the services thus far are based on the well-supported standards of OAuth, we think we'll see deeper integrations across networks like Pinterest, LinkedIn and more. In fact, China's most popular social service, Sina Weibo, is already built into iOS 6.

The ramifications of this are potentially as revolutionary as one-tap purchasing. The current best-case scenario for handling Facebook integrations is a pretty abysmal experience for users. Consider the following steps that users currently take:

  1. Tap the Connect Button
  2. Either a Web view opens to Facebook, or the Facebook App opens
  3. User is presented with a choice of allowing or disallowing the app
  4. After deciding, the original App is loaded again
  5. The app then proceeds to use the authenticated token, or (ideally) fails gracefully if the user didn't allow permission

Compare that with the simple scenario:

  1. User enters Facebook credentials in the Settings app once.
  2. Apps then ask the user if they can use those credentials
  3. User says yes or no

Apple has taken us from a slow, unwieldy experience to one with far less friction. It will be extremely interesting to see how quickly developers adapt and how often users connect using this method.

Integration with Console Gaming and PC Gaming

We see tablets as complementary to the next generation of gaming. This will hold especially true for developers as it enables us to expand and create apps to offer gamers the ability to interact with and expand the console and PC gaming experience. The portable nature of tablets is also appealing to current console and desktop PC users. They will be able to move their game out of the limited confines of their TV or monitor and transport their game through the cloud.

The future of gaming is multiscreen. Gamers do not just want to view their computer or television and be limited to a mouse or controller to feel connected with the game. Apps will enable gamers to interact with the game on a closer level. They will be able to view vantage points on their tablets that are unavailable on the TV screen or monitor and uncover clues and tricks via guidebooks with real-time information. Game developers should pay close attention to how this market develops or risk being left behind.

We saw Microsoft embrace this idea with the announcement of Xbox SmartGlass last month, an app for Windows 8, tablets and mobile devices that lets users view and interact with new content in association with games and video on their consoles. In one demonstration, a user playing Halo 4 was able to view statistics, get notified of different waypoints and initiate multiplayer gaming sessions from the app.

Microsoft has already released the SDK to developers, giving us tools to integrate the new technology into games and apps. The endless possibilities for developing apps to interface with SmartGlass are overwhelming. With the right tools, games can be designed to fully integrate with a tablet--a baseball game could display relevant player statistics according to the actions on the screen, for example.

The New Living Room Experience

Gamers aren't the only ones who want to make their tablet a part of the entertainment experience. Technology is now encouraging viewers to not simply watch television content but fully immerse themselves within it. For example, Microsoft's SmartGlass app extends far beyond the Halo users described above.

Take the popular TV series Game of Thrones. With the SmartGlass app, viewers can watch the show while their tablet shows where on a world map the scene is taking place. Although Xbox SmartGlass features may vary by device, the app is reportedly also available for iOS and Android.

As companies race to own the living room entertainment experience, launching the latest and greatest for their tablet and entertainment fans, we're excited to see (and utilize!) the possibilities of creating apps across platforms. People are no longer satisfied being passive consumers to entertainment. They want to share their activities and passions with friends on Facebook and experience the world of their favorite game or television show within the convenience of their homes, and in ways we've yet to even imagine. This emerging market, compounded with new technologies, grants developers endless opportunities to tap into their unchained creativity to integrate apps with the innovative devices of the future.

Ken and Keith Hanson are identical twin brothers who founded Twin Engine Labs, an innovative design and development agency that builds iOS applications for Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, and creative agencies. Based in the twins' hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, the company delivers a comprehensive experience offering creative and engineering services to a diverse range of clients including Cisco Network, Cabot Cheese, Moonbot Studio's, Jason Aldean and more. For more information visit www.twinenginelabs.com, check them out on Facebook at, interact with them on Twitter at @thetwinengine, and follow their blog.

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